This is National Work Zone Awareness Week
The following press release was issued by the Virginia Department of Transportation today:
RICHMOND - Highway work zones are among the most dangerous places for both drivers and workers - but they don't have to be. Nationally, more than 1,000 people die each year in work-zone motor vehicle crashes, and more than 40,000 are injured. In Virginia, seven people died in work zone crashes on state-maintained roadways in 2008.
That's why the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance (VTCA) are joining other states to mark National Work Zone Awareness Week 2009 during the week of April 6-10. This year's message to all drivers is, "Drive to Survive, Our Future is Riding On It."
"Every driver and every worker on the road has families, colleagues and friends depending on them to return home safely at the end of the day. Our employees and contractors make safety their top priority. We hope that drivers will join with us by using caution when they drive through work zones," said VDOT Commissioner David Ekern, P.E.
Drivers are encouraged to follow these simple rules when driving through a work zone: slow down, stay alert for changing conditions and avoid distractions, such as text messaging or talking on the phone.
This Work Zone Awareness Week also marks the five-year anniversary of the dedication of the VDOT Workers' Memorial, a monument on Interstate 64 near Afton Mountain that was built entirely with contributions from VDOT employees and citizens. The memorial honors state highway transportation workers who died performing their jobs. The site provides a place where family members, friends, and colleagues can reflect on their loss and where the traveling public can become more aware of sacrifices made by state highway transportation workers.
This year, VDOT is reaching out to drivers age 15 to 30 because about a third of these drivers, or 36 percent, are involved in work-zone crashes. VDOT will partner with several universities throughout the commonwealth to reach their students, telling them to stay alert and drive with care, especially in work zones, because of the human costs at stake.
Initiated by a VDOT engineer in 2007, work-zone safety events are now an annual nationwide observance.
VDOT and VTCA have worked together for several years to educate younger drivers about the hazards of work zones by speaking to high school driver's education classes around the state. They emphasize the importance of giving one's full, undistracted attention to driving through work zones.
VDOT also uses various technologies to safely manage traffic leading up to and through work zones. These include variable message signs with travel times, delay and/or speed information as well as the variable speed limit system now in place in northern Virginia at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge/Telegraph Road work zone. VDOT also employs a late-merge system on some roads to encourage drivers to merge closer to the zone at slower speeds rather than creating a longer queue that backs up traffic.