The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) announced that they will observe Work Zone Awareness Week April 26-30. This is a nationwide safety campaign designed to bring awareness to the men and women in work zones across the country, and to encourage motorists to use safety precautions while driving through the work zones.
The theme for this year’s campaign is ‘Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives.’, which reinforces the message that MDOT and DOTD have been sending to drivers to remember to pay attention and slowdown in work zones.
“If you drive carefully you can save the lives of those who work on our very active roadways,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards. “Every day these employees put themselves in potentially dangerous situations. Most fatal work zones crashes occur in the summer and in the fall, and with the increase in funding for infrastructure improvements comes an increase in work zones.”
“Around 75% of MDOT’s workers are in the field alongside traffic as part of their job,” said Jeffrey C. Altman, P.E., MDOT Acting Executive Director. “Even with crews following safety guidelines, the traveling public plays a huge role in keeping our workers safe.”
As part of Work Zone Awareness Week, the yearly safety cone memorial will be set up in front of DOTD headquarters in Baton Rouge. The memorial recognizes those who have lost their lives in work zones. In 2019, there were 762 fatal crashes and 842 fatalities in work zones nationwide. That same year in Louisiana, there were 10 fatal crashes and 11 fatalities, an increase of 450% in fatalities from the previous year.
Nationwide, there were 135 worker fatalities in 2019, and two of those were work zone related fatalities in Louisiana.
“Work zone safety awareness is a very important issue that needs to be placed front and center,” said Lisa Freeman, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Executive Director. “When we look at the issue of work zone safety in the eyes of those who actually work in this environment, it becomes clear that we all must be responsible and tentative drivers. Hundreds of these workers are seriously injured, and there are those who die each year, because drivers don’t slow down, put their phones down, choose to drive impaired, and often times, a deadly combination of all these things. Committing to a safe driving behavior is a win-win for everyone on the roadway.”
“One thing that is a priority for me to know is if my dad is okay in the situations he is constantly put in while being on the road,” said Jalecia Banks, the daughter of DOTD worker Desmond Banks. “With the drivers I have seen on the road, it is a constant worry that constantly roams around in my mind. Drivers should be mindful of the things they do on the road. Not only is your life at risk, others’ lives are at risk. If you are not paying attention you could swerve off the road and hit another car, or hit a worker that has children.”
- Give yourself time to get to your destination. To help prevent frustration while traveling through work zones, drivers should allow enough time to arrive at their destination. Road delays can be time consuming and lead to bad decisions which could endanger other motorists and workers.
- Pay attention to road signs. Road signs are posted in advance of work zones alerting drivers of an upcoming change in traffic pattern. If there is a lane closure, it is posted well in advance of the project site. Drivers should merge as soon as possible.
- Slow down. Active construction projects can be unpredictable. MDOT crews are trained to be aware of the traveling public, but the unexpected can occur. By traveling at slower speeds, motorists can respond quickly to avoid disaster.
- Watch out for flaggers. If flaggers are present, drivers should follow instructions. Flaggers are there to keep everyone safe.
- Avoid distractions. When driving through a work zone, drivers should watch the traffic around them and allow space between other vehicles. By avoiding distractions, drivers will be ready to react if road conditions change suddenly.
- Be patient. After the active work space, signs will indicate when the work zone ends. Drivers should be patient as traffic resumes its normal flow.
MDOT and DOTD, as well as other transportation agencies nationwide, will be participating in Go Orange Day on April 28 to show support for work zone safety. We encourage the public to participate as well. Those wishing to participate or follow along on social media can do so by using the hashtags #GoOrange4Safety and #NWZAW.
Since 1999, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Federal Highway Administration, and the American Traffic Safety Services Association have coordinated and sponsored National Work Zone Awareness Week. For more information about Work Zone Awareness, visit www.destinationzerodeaths.com.