National Work Zone Awareness Week - Through the Eyes of a Field Tech

Every Monday, as I get packed and prepare for the week, I hug and kiss my family and tell them I love them before heading out the door. There is never a day that goes by where I do not think about safety and the “what-ifs,” especially while working in lane closures and next to live traffic. I want to ensure that I come home to my family in the same condition as when I left.

Taking Precautions

Before I set foot into the work zone, I make sure the traffic control is set up correctly, all the safety measures are in place, and everyone involved knows the agenda for the day and the emergency response plan. The other component of a safe work zone environment is out of our control: the traveling public. We hope motorists acknowledge entering a work zone, read the warning signs, and pay close attention to what’s on the road ahead.

I have been in the transportation industry for over 23 years, and I have seen a lot of close calls, accidents, and, unfortunately, a co-worker fatality due to a distracted driver.

My family depends on me to work safely, and I depend on the traveling public to drive safely through the work zone.

Too Many Fatalities

In 2021, there were an estimated 106,000 work zone vehicle crashes. Of those crashes, there were 956 fatalities. In 2013, there were 593 fatalities, meaning we have seen a 61% increase in just 8 years.
The leading causes of work zone crashes are speeding, distracted driving, and following too closely.

Distracted driving is becoming a more significant problem as we use our phones for calls, texting, emails, and listening to music. Combine these activities with speeding, and the effects of distracted driving are multiplied. For example, suppose a driver is texting for 5 seconds and traveling at 75 mph (120 kph). In that case, they will have covered the distance of nearly two football fields, and they may as well have been blindfolded.

Tips for Drivers

Here are 5 tips for safely traveling through a work zone:

  1. Expect the unexpected.
    The routes you travel every day might have changed, new work zones added overnight, speed reductions added, and new traffic patterns installed. Never remain complacent while driving.
  2. Stay Alert.
    Dedicate your full attention throughout the entire work zone. Keep both hands on the wheel, keep your eyes on the roadway, watch for slowing traffic, and follow flagger directions if present. It is a good idea to keep your phone put away or on silent to minimize distractions.
  3. Keep a safe distance.
    As you approach the work zone, be prepared to slow down or, in some cases, come to a complete stop. As mentioned, following too closely is a major contributor to work zone accidents.
  4. Plan your travel.
    Along with weather and other unforeseen delays, work zones can add time to your travel. Schedule enough time so you can reach your destination on time and safely.
  5. Be patient.
    Work zones can seem very inconvenient, especially if you are late for work. Remember that the workers are there to fix the roadway or improve the transportation system.

NWZAW is Important for Everyone

National Work Zone Awareness Week coincides with the annual increase in road construction each spring. It’s a time to review the importance of road safety, remind everyone to watch out for people at work, and review some best practices to follow when approaching a work zone. Together, we can all go home safely.

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