Monday, April 3, 2017

Please help us keep everyone safe in highway work zones

By Barbara LaBoe

It's hard to describe how it feels when a vehicle zooms by you in a highway work zone. You hear the vehicle before you see it and then you're also buffeted with a burst of wind as it passes just a few feet away from you. There are cones, barriers and warning signs, of course, but if you're not used to it the vehicles still feel WAY too close.
Our workers, including this crew replacing light bulbs on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, are often just feet away
from moving traffic. Please slow down and be extra alert when moving through work zones.

For many of my colleagues, though, this is their daily office. And, unlike me, they live with the knowledge that one second's distraction by a driver can cause their injury or even death on any given day. Every worker I've spoken to can reel off a list of near misses, and some have been injured as well. We work very hard to keep these workers safe with equipment and procedures, but we still see far too many crashes in our work zones.

We use many tools, including signs, barrels and even other vehicles, to help protect our workers
in work zones, but we still need the public’s help to ensure everyone is as safe as possible.

In 2016 alone, there were 1,790 work-zone related crashes on our state highways, including 11 deaths and 523 injuries. Nationally, there's an injury crash in a work zone every 14 minutes.

That's why we're going to spend the next month sharing Work Zone Safety messages and information to help all of us be safer on our roads. The effort kicks off this week with the National Work Zone Safety Week, and continues throughout the month.
The centerpiece of the month-long campaign is our annual Worker Memorial Event on April 13 in Olympia. The ceremony is a chance to honor the 60 WSDOT workers who have been killed on the job since 1950 as well as recognize the many others who have been injured or had near misses while working to keep the traveling public safe. It's a humbling experience every year.

So, what can you do? Please Slow Down and Pay Attention whenever you're in or approaching a work zone. The top three causes of work zone crashes in our state are distracted/inattentive drivers; following too closely and speeding – and all of these are preventable.

So, the next time you drive by workers on a highway, think about what it would be like standing so close to oncoming traffic. Slow down and follow directions. Please also be alert for other drivers who may not be paying attention and can suddenly slam on brakes in front of you.

Please help us keep everyone – our workers and all the drivers and passengers on the road – safe in our work zones. We want everyone to return home to their families at the end of each day.