The Mississippi Department of Transportation is asking all motorists to help keep roadside workers safe through the observation of ‘National Work Zone Awareness Week.’
With the theme of “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives,” MDOT asks that you slow down, put your phone away, pay attention to advanced warning signs and be alert for roadside crews when approaching work zones throughout the state.
MDOT stressed that as maintenance and construction crews work to ensure Mississippi’s transportation network is safe for motorists, it can be dangerous work in an unpredictable environment.
“Around 75% of MDOT’s workers are in the field alongside traffic as part of their job,” Jeffrey C. Altman, P.E., MDOT Acting Executive Director, said. “Even with crews following safety guidelines, the traveling public plays a huge role in keeping our workers safe.”
Statistics from the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse show there were 762 fatal crashes in work zones resulting in 842 deaths in 2019. Of those work zone fatalities, 135 of the people killed were roadway workers. The remainder–and vast majority of those killed–were motorists, passengers and pedestrians.
Additionally, there were a total of 123,000 work zone crashes in 2018—of which 31,000 were injury-involved crashes that resulted in 45,000 injuries, which underscores the need to observe work zone speeds and eliminate distractions when approaching and driving through work zones.
No amount of safety gear or plastic cones will stop a vehicle barreling through a job site. The safety of roadside workers is everyone’s responsibility. These tips will help drivers protect themselves and highway workers:
- Give yourself time to get to your destination. To help prevent frustration while traveling through work zones, drivers should allow enough time to arrive at their destination. Road delays can be time consuming and lead to bad decisions which could endanger other motorists and workers.
- Pay attention to road signs. Road signs are posted in advance of work zones alerting drivers of an upcoming change in traffic pattern. If there is a lane closure, it is posted well in advance of the project site. Drivers should merge as soon as possible.
- Slow down. Active construction projects can be unpredictable. MDOT crews are trained to be aware of the traveling public, but the unexpected can occur. By traveling at slower speeds, motorists can respond quickly to avoid disaster.
- Watch out for flaggers. If flaggers are present, drivers should follow instructions. Flaggers are there to keep everyone safe.
- Avoid distractions. When driving through a work zone, drivers should watch the traffic around them and allow space between other vehicles. By avoiding distractions, drivers will be ready to react if road conditions change suddenly.
- Be patient. After the active work space, signs will indicate when the work zone ends. Drivers should be patient as traffic resumes its normal flow.
MDOT maintenance and construction staff are trained to work on Mississippi’s highways. Work zones are marked with signs and advanced warnings to give drivers as much notice as possible before entering the work zone. No matter how many signals are in place, no work zone is safe unless drivers pay attention and slow down.
“The safety of our workers is in your hands,” Altman said. “Regardless of the amount of training or how well a work zone is set up, these crews rely on the traveling public to keep them safe and help them get home to their families at the end of the day.”
Highway work zones are meant to protect the traveling public and the highway workers on the side of the road. Highway work zones can be found throughout the state and often present unfamiliar traffic conditions. Examples of common work zones found on Mississippi highways and a complete list of tips can be found at GoMDOT.com/drivesmartms.
MDOT wants you to take part in the observation of ‘Work Zone Awareness Week’ on ‘Go Orange Day’ which takes place Wednesday, April 28. You can do so by wearing organeg to show your support for the men and women who work tirelessly to keep our roads safe. Take a photo of yourself wearing orange to show your commitment to work zone safety. You can also tag @MississippiDOT with the hashtags #NWZAW #Orange4Safety #GoOrange4Safety on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.