Work Zone Safety Week: Slow down, pay attention

In the past five years, 62 people died and 4,780 were hurt in 12,441 Wisconsin work zone crashes.
In the past five years, 62 people died and 4,780 were hurt in 12,441 Wisconsin work zone crashes.
In the past five years, 62 people died and 4,780 were hurt in 12,441 Wisconsin work zone crashes.(Courtesy TxDOT)
Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 7:46 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,” Lakey said.

Lakey said 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,” Lakey said.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 62 people were killed in the past five years, as well as 4,780 injuries and 12,441 crashes in Wisconsin work zones. The Wisconsin DOT says a majority of crashes are due to speeding, tailgating and distracted driving, and the majority of deaths and injuries are drivers and passengers. A work zone crash happened every three hours during the 2021 road construction season in Wisconsin, the DOT said.

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, you can visit the Wisconsin DOT website.

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