Monday, March 23, 2015

Give ‘em a Brake: roadway work zone safety matters to everyone

By Barbara LaBoe

With workers on roadside projects every day, we take work zone safety very personally.  We want all our workers -- and all the passing motorists -- to return home safely every night.

That’s why we wholeheartedly support this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week – which begins today – and why we hold our own memorial event each year.  This year’s WSDOT Worker Memorial is April 22 at our Olympia Headquarters Building.  It’s a time to honor and remember our fallen workers as well as a chance to once again emphasize our safety messages to both workers and the public.

Safety is our number one priority.  We employ numerous safety measures at our roadside work zones, but many sites are still dangerous just by their nature.  Nationally, there’s a collision in a work zone every 14 minutes.  Closer to home, Washington has averaged nearly 950 state roadway work zone injuries a year since 2006.  Last year, we had 1,384 reported collisions either in a work zone or in a back-up caused by one, including four fatalities and 454 reported injuries.

Our safety crews are there to keep our workers – and you – safe
 in work zones. Please slow down, follow directions and stay safe.
While we want to keep our workers safe, it’s often the driver or passengers who are injured in work zone collisions.  In 2014, 94 percent of Washington roadway work zone fatalities and injuries were to drivers or their passengers.  The top three reasons for work zone collisions were driver inattention, following too closely or excessive speed.

That makes our Give ‘em a Brake message all the more important, because informed, aware drivers are a key part of reducing the risks.  Remember, you’re not only protecting our workers by slowing down and obeying traffic signs – you’re protecting yourself and your loved ones.

Our workers have vehicles passing just a few feet away from them,
which is why it’s so important to slow down and be alert in work zones.
We ask all drivers in work zones to:
  • Slow down and drive the posted speeds
  • Stay calm
  • Pay attention, both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic
  • Merge as soon as possible
  • Expect delays, leave early or take an alternate route if possible
We’ve lost 59 WSDOT employees in work zones since 1950.  Every one of the deaths is a tragedy to their families as well as our agency and the state.  Working together, we can spread awareness and make work zones a much safer place for everyone.

So the next time you’re in a work zone, please give our workers – and yourself – a brake.