Work Zone Safety Week: Slow down, move over for roadside workers

In Wisconsin, utility, maintenance, emergency, and roadside service workers are covered under...
In Wisconsin, utility, maintenance, emergency, and roadside service workers are covered under work zone laws.(WITN)
Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 11:33 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Utility, maintenance, service, and construction companies are reminding motorists to slow down or move over for workers operating along roadways as part of National Work Zone Awareness Week.

According to Gary Lakey, the vice president of safety and workforce relations at Xcel Energy, many drivers aren’t aware that state laws that apply to road construction workers also apply to utility workers.

“We want to increase awareness around this critical safety issue so that everyone can go home safely to their families at the end of each day,” said Lakey.

Lakey says that while many drivers slow down or move over when they approach emergency vehicles and workers on the side of the road, they don’t always do the same for utility and construction workers.

“Several of our employees have sustained significant injuries after being hit by vehicles,” said Lakey.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, there have been over 5,000 injuries and over 13,000 crashes in the past five years in Wisconsin work zones, as well as 59 deaths. The Wisconsin DOT says a majority of crashes are due to speeding, tailgating and distracted driving.

On Wednesday, utility and construction workers across the country are wearing orange to promote Go Orange Day, which is done in support of work zone safety, as well as for families who have been impacted by incidents in work zones.

The Wisconsin DOT is working to get the message out about safe driving in work zones, utilizing public service announcements, the state’s highway messaging system, and advertisements to remind people to pay attention while behind the wheel.

Challenges for drivers include narrow lanes, sudden stops, traffic pattern shifts, and uneven road surfaces. The Federal Highway Administration says that drivers should move into the open lane as soon as possible when approaching lane closures, check blind spots, and be aware for rapidly-changing traffic patterns. Drivers should also pay attention for directions and signs from flaggers and work zone message displays.

In Wisconsin, utility, maintenance, emergency, and roadside service workers are covered under work zone laws. This includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Major road construction
  • Emergency vehicles at the side of the road
  • A snowplow flashing its warning lights
  • Everyday garbage pickup

Any combination of orange barrels, orange signs, flags, flagging operations, workers, or flashing lights may be involved in designating an area as a work zone. You might also see utility, maintenance, or emergency vehicles present.

Fines for violations in work zones are doubled, and typically increase every year, according to the Wisconsin DOT.

To learn more about highway safety, click here.

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