Rock County Highway Commissioner Duane Jorgenson urges people to drive carefully in highway work zones throughout the 2019 construction season.
Preliminary figures show there were more than 3,100 work zone crashes throughout Wisconsin in 2018, including 336 in Rock County.
National Work Zone Awareness Week takes place April 8 through 12. This year’s theme is “Drive like you work here.”
“Thousands of men and women are proud to work hard improving our roads, highways and bridges, and we owe it to them to stay alert and be careful when behind the wheel. Road workers want to make it home to their family, just like anyone else does,” said Jorgenson.
In Wisconsin, work zones include major highway construction and rehabilitation, maintenance, emergency response, utility work, municipal projects and more – any time in which there are flashing lights, signs, barrels or workers on the road.
Wednesday, April 10, is “Go Orange Day,” in which people are asked to wear something orange in support of highway safety. Social media pictures and posts are welcome using the #OrangeForSafety hashtag, but please always refrain from using electronics while driving.
Work Zone Awareness Week is sponsored by federal, state and local transportation officials to draw attention to the safety needs of road workers during construction season. Generally, crashes occur when drivers speed through a work zone, do not pay attention to changing road conditions, run into other vehicles or highway equipment or drive off the road completely.
“It’s very important to eliminate distractions and slow down – especially in work zones,” said Jorgenson. “Even at reduced speeds, tragedies can happen quickly.”
While typical construction work zones are prevalent throughout the county and state, there are also significant numbers of maintenance operations that may be short-term or moving operations. Drivers are reminded of the state’s, “Move Over, Slow Down” law, which requires drivers to shift lanes or slow down in order to provide a safety buffer for a squad car, ambulance, fire truck, tow truck, utility vehicle, or highway maintenance vehicle that is stopped on the side of a road with its warning lights flashing.
Additionally, drivers are reminded that it is 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, plus costs.
Before hitting the road, drivers are encouraged to check 511 Wisconsin (511wi.gov and @511WI on Twitter), or use the 511 Wisconsin smartphone app for updates on road conditions and traffic flow.
Giving undivided attention to the road:
- Don’t fool around. Eliminate distractions like eating, drinking, talking on the phone, or fiddling with electronic devices.
- Expect the unexpected. Speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people and vehicles may be working on or near the road.
- Slow down. A car traveling 60 mph travels 88 feet per second, and the faster you go the longer it takes to stop.
- Give yourself room. Rear-end collisions are the most common work zone crashes, so don’t tailgate.
- Allow about three seconds of braking distance. Look for signs. Orange, diamond-shaped signs usually give you ample warning of lane closings, construction areas, and flaggers and other workers ahead.
- Be patient. If you don’t see workers, that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Observe the signs until you see one that says you’ve left the work zone.
- Plan ahead. Leave early or map out an alternate route. Find the latest road conditions and work zone news at 511 Wisconsin.
- Follow the law. Slow down and move over, if possible, when you see flashing lights.
- Consider turning off the phone until you reach your destination.
- During a long drive, consider leaving a voice mail explaining how long you’ll be unavailable.
- If you have to make a call, find a secure place to pull over and stop, such as a wayside or a gas station.