VDOT: Spring brings an increase in road projects, so, you know, pay attention
This week, April 26-30, is National Work Zone Awareness Week. The observance, held annually at the start of highway construction season, reminds drivers that they play an important role in keeping everyone safe.
Work zones are a necessary part of highway improvement projects. Whether they mark and protect a crew replacing a failed drainage pipe or delineate a miles-long interstate expansion project, the signs, lights, barrels, cones and barriers alert motorists to slow down and pay attention as they navigate the area.
Work zones pose hazards to motorists as well as work crews; 80% of those killed in work zone crashes are vehicle occupants. In 2020 there were 11 fatalities resulting from crashes in work zones, while 1,547 people were injured. This is a 35.2% decrease in work zone fatalities and a 14.8% decrease in work zone injuries from 2019. This reduction correlates with the significant decrease in traffic volumes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although National Work Zone Awareness Week is observed once per year, for Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) crews and partners, work zones are a daily part of the job. As winter turns to spring, motorists will see more maintenance and construction activity, thus more work zones across the Commonwealth.
“My thoughts are with those who have been injured or killed in our work zones, and their families and loved ones,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Even one death is too many—we must do better. It is our shared responsibility to stay alert when we are behind the wheel.”
“The 2021 construction season is off to a poor start with work zone safety, and we have had too many incidents already,” said VDOT Commissioner Stephen C. Brich. “The safety of our people is always the top priority for our agency, and we need the public’s help. Work zones present unique hazards and driving through them requires total attention. If drivers do their part, they will reach their destination safely and our men and women will go home safely to their loved ones.”
This year’s national theme is “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives.” The theme emphasizes the part that everyone plays in keeping workers – and motorists – safe in work zones.
VDOT offers the following tips for safely navigating highway work zones:
- Expect the unexpected. Keep an eye out for workers and slow-moving equipment.
- Follow the signs. Signs and flaggers will direct you through work zones. Expect changes in traffic patterns as the project progresses.
- Don’t tailgate. Unexpected stops frequently occur in work zones.
- Don’t speed. Enhanced fines of up to $500 may be levied for speeding in a work zone.
- Never change lanes in a work zone.
- Focus and minimize distractions. Focus your full attention on the road and those traveling around you. Avoid changing radio stations, eating or using phones, even hands-free devices.
- Be patient. Crews are working to improve the safety and comfort of your travels.
- Know before you go. Call 511 for up-to-the-minute traffic and weather information from any phone in Virginia. Before you travel, log on to 511Virginiaor check the free 511 Virginia mobile app for road and traffic conditions, weather forecasts and live traffic cameras on many major highways.
How you can support National Work Zone Awareness Week:
- Follow VDOT on Facebook, Instagramand Twitter. Show us your support by liking, sharing and posting with the hashtags: #NWZAW2021, #GoOrangeVA and #RespectTheZone.
- Wednesday, April 28, is Go Orange Day. Wear orange to show your support for work zone safety. Take a photo and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org we’ll put it on our Flickr album. (Please include first names of those in the picture and what part of Virginia you’re from.)