Virginia takes part in National Work Zone Awareness Week

RICHMOND — With the arrival of spring and the warmer weather comes the beginning of highway construction season, and that means more active work zones.

During National Work Zone Awareness Week, observed this year through Friday, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) joins the highway contracting community and federal, state and local transportation officials to educate motorists about the potential dangers we all face while driving through work zones.

This year’s national theme – “Expect the Unexpected” – emphasizes the changing conditions that occur during the busy roadway construction season.

“We are happy to put the snow and ice behind us and get down to the business of repairing and improving our roads,” says Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “Please be alert to additional work zones this spring as the men and women of VDOT complete this important work to make travel through the commonwealth safer and smoother.”

In Virginia last year, there were 4,068 work zone crashes resulting in 1,857 injuries and 15 fatalities. In 2013 nationwide (the most recent available data), there were 579 work zone traffic-related fatalities, 28,630 work zone injuries, 105 worker fatalities and 186 fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses.

By comparison, in 2013 there were 21 fatalities in Virginia that involved work zone crashes. In 2012 nationwide, there were 609 traffic-related fatalities, 32,000 injuries, 130 worker fatalities and 132 fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses.

“When you see signs for work zones ahead, please slow down and stay alert,” cautions Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. “These work zones are in place to make needed infrastructure improvements and make your travel more reliable and efficient.”

VDOT’s research arm, the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research, is developing work zone safety performance measures that will provide a standard approach to evaluating work zones that will lead to safer conditions for both drivers and workers. VDOT is also partnering with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to examine nighttime work zone lighting to evaluate current practices and develop the most effective lighting requirements in Virginia.

“As we continue to research the latest techniques and methods to make our work zones a safer environment for workers and motorists, please also do your part to help minimize dangers on Virginia’s highways,” says VDOT Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick. “Never drive distracted, and watch out for slow-moving equipment entering and exiting project areas.”

 

VDOT Memorial Vigil is Wednesday

Each year in recognition of Work Zone Awareness Week, VDOT holds an evening vigil to honor its employees who lost their lives in work zone crashes. This year’s event will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the VDOT Workers’ Memorial. The public is invited to attend. The memorial is located on Interstate 64 on Afton Mountain (milepost 102 eastbound) in Albemarle County.

 

Support Work Zone Awareness Week

The public can support Work Zone Awareness Week by participating in “Go Orange Day” on Wednesday. The public can send photos to VDOTPhotoRequest@VDOT.virginia.gov (along with your name and location), and the photos will be included on VDOT’s Flickr site.

 

VDOT offers the following tips to increase safety for drivers who navigate highway work zones:

Expect the unexpected. Keep an eye out for workers and slow-moving equipment.

  • Follow the signs. Signs and flaggers will direct you through the work zone. Expect changes in traffic patterns as the project progresses.
  • Don’t tailgate. Unexpected stops frequently occur in work zones.
  • Don’t speed. Enhanced fines of up to $500 may be levied for speeding in a work zone.
  • Focus. Focus your full attention on the road and those traveling around you.
  • Never change lanes in the work zone.
  • Minimize distractions. Avoid changing radio stations and using phones.
  • Be patient. Crews are working to improve the safety and comfort of your travels.
  • Call 511 (when safe). Receive up-to-the-minute traffic and weather information from any phone in Virginia. Before you travel, visit www.511Virginia.orgfor road and traffic conditions, weather forecasts and live traffic cameras on many major highways.

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