Everyday, highway workers in Mississippi and across the country see motorists’ behavior placing their safety at risk. From drivers texting on their phones, speeding by them or eating their breakfast on their way to work, these highway workers understand that part of their workplace safety is in the hands of a driver.
“Our highway workers see a lot in work zones, and in some cases, they are only separated from the traveling public by a plastic barrel, concrete barrier wall or nothing at all,” said Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall. “Just one error can change a driver’s, passenger’s or highway worker’s life forever, that’s why knowing how to navigate a work zone is so important.”
MDOT has developed resources to teach motorists how to drive in work zones based on the most common types of work zones on Mississippi’s highways. By visiting GoMDOT.com/drivesmartms motorists can learn how to prepare for driving in work zones that may affect their everyday commutes. Whether it’s a major interstate or a rural highway, knowing how to identify and follow advanced warning signs for the type of work zone motorists are about to encounter can help prevent crashes. By preparing for the amount of attention it requires to make it through a work zone safely, everyone can get home at the end of the day.
Drivers should learn what they can expect in a work zone, especially with long-term projects that may take a couple of years to complete. For example, the Interstate 55 South Project in Hinds County began in 2013 and is expected to be complete in the late summer of 2018. This major project is expanding approximately 7 miles of Interstate 55 from Byram to McDowell Road from four to six lanes. Traffic has been shifted multiple times for crews to rebuild the northbound and southbound lanes and have diverted traffic for lane closures and ramp reconstruction. Motorists have to adapt to the work zone as the project advances by paying additional attention to the changes in traffic patterns. Navigating through this project is a part of everyday life for local motorists on their commutes to work, travelers passing through on a weekend or commercial vehicles who are moving goods across the state.
“Long term projects like this on major routes, where both residential and commercial traffic mix, require extra precaution,” Hall said. “This project will eventually improve efficiency, safety and economic development for the region and state, but for now, motorists need to learn how to drive with additional focus, follow the posted signage and speed limit, and remove distractions.”
MDOT and other state DOT’s follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) which defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on roads open to public travel. It is developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
“Highway workers make their ‘office’ as safe as possible by wearing proper equipment, having in-depth knowledge on handling machinery and following guidelines on how to properly and safely set up a work zone for the type of work,” Hall said. “It is up to the driver to continue to keep that work zone as safe as possible by doing their part to take the same kinds of safety precautions as our workers.”