By: Georgia Lobb
Photo courtesy of CT Work Zone Saftey Facebook Page
National Work Zone Awareness week began in 1997 in Virginia as a small effort to get people thinking about the safety of road workers. Now, it’s a national annual event that has helped to decrease the number of fatalities on the road by staggering numbers.
This week, April 15th-19th, is Connecticut’s Work Zone Awareness week.
According to the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the number of injury crashes in Connecticut work zones has dropped by 50% in the past ten years — from 341 in 2001 to 170 in 2011.
The number of work zone fatalities, too, has fallen in the past ten years. But there are still over 100 fatalities each year, according to NHTSA.gov.
“When fatalities happen, they weigh on us heavily,” said Terri Thompson of ConnDOT. “We want to see crashes in work zones drop. I don’t know if we will ever get down to 0 crashes, but we want to see the numbers drop.”
And it’s not just about drivers. There can be cyclists, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles, involved, too.
“The road is an office that our workers are sharing with 80,000 pound vehicles sometimes,” Thompson said. “We’re trying to get people to slow down, because when you’re driving slower you have more time to react to what’s going on around you.”
The key phrase to remember is: “Obey the orange.” When you see an orange and black sign on the road, it means there’s a work zone coming up. ConnDOT is hoping that when drivers see orange on the road, they’ll slow down just as they would if they saw blue and red lights behind them.
Children across the state created posters themed around Work Zone Awareness Week for a contest. Wally, the 11-foot tall work zone safety mascot (made out of recycled barrels and traffic cones), congratulated them earlier this week. Some of the posters can be seen on the CT Work Zone Safety Facebook page.
“We’ve been so impressed with the kids,” said Thompson. “They come up with the greatest safety messages. It’s important to instill positive safety messages in the young kids, so that when they become drivers they’ll be careful. You cant teach an old dog new tricks.”
Here are some tips that National Work Zone Awareness Week wants road users to keep in mind while passing through work zones.
Info from Work Zone Awareness Week, courtesy of Gary Turco