Work Zone Awareness Week promotes highway safety

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MADISON, Wis. (WISDOT) -- Gov. Scott Walker proclaimed April 3 to 7 as Work Zone Awareness Week as part of efforts to prevent traffic crashes, deaths and injuries in construction and maintenance areas along Wisconsin’s roadways.

There have been more than 2,000 work zone crashes in each of the last three years, including more than 2,800 in 2016 – an average of more than seven each day. Drivers are asked to stay alert in work areas, which include major highway construction and rolling maintenance operations as well as emergency response, municipal projects and utility work along local roads.

In 2016, work zone crashes caused nine fatalities and 1,110 injuries.

“Each incident is a painful reminder that it only takes a matter of seconds or a small misjudgment to create a tragedy on our highways,” said WisDOT Secretary Dave Ross. “A lot can happen – fast – even at a reduced speed in a work zone, so it’s very important to eliminate distractions, slow down and avoid tailgating.”

Along with safety messages on Dynamic Message Signs, other work zone technologies include Temporary Portable Rumble Strips used by county maintenance workers and private contractors and Queue Warning Systems, which help to communicate speed reductions and other valuable traffic information ahead of work zones.

Additionally, drivers are reminded that a new law took effect in October 2016 making it illegal to talk on a hand-held mobile device while driving through a work zone. Violators face fines of up to $40 on first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses.

“Remember that even at the reduced speed of 55 mph, your car will cover the length of a football field in less than four seconds,” said Secretary Ross. “It’s important to stay focused, giving your undivided attention to the road.”

Wisconsin’s Move Over law helps protect workers by requiring drivers to shift lanes if possible or slow down in order to provide a safety zone for law enforcement vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks, tow trucks, highway maintenance and utility vehicles that are on the side of a road with their warning lights flashing.

From 2011 to 2015, there were a total of 47 people killed and 3,592 injured in a total of 9,664 crashes in Wisconsin work zones. Fourteen of the fatalities have been linked to inattentive driving, and 23 involved alcohol or drugs.

In 2015, three highway workers were killed in separate incidents in Calumet, Shawano and Lincoln counties. One was rear-ended while driving a sweeper truck; two were flaggers who were struck by vehicles.

In addition, officers from the Wisconsin State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies will be deployed in work zones to enforce speed limits and other traffic laws.

How can people help?
• Drive safely, avoid distractions and obey posted speed limits. Be courteous and patient. Set a good example for others on the road.
• Show support for work zone safety with the social media hashtags #NWZAW, #WorkZoneSafety, or #OrangeForSafety (but please never tweet and drive).
• Participate in “Go Orange Day” on Wednesday, April 5 by wearing orange in support of safety. (#OrangeForSafety)

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