March 2019 was a month of tragedy for the highway community in Colorado.
On the 13th, Colorado State Patrol Corporal Dan Groves died while assisting a motorist who had slid off the highway, only to be hit by another car that lost control. Then, on the 17th, Colorado Department of Transportation worker Eric Hill was struck by a front end loader in a work zone fatality.
Our hearts go out to the families and fellow employees of these men who were making the roads safer and better for us all.
But March was not an atypical month nationally, as brutal as it was for Colorado. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) tells us that about every three days there is a fatal work zone crash involving a large truck in the U.S. And state law enforcement officers everywhere will tell you that their most dangerous place to work is at roadside. However, something is being done to increase awareness of work zone safety.
April 8-12 marks National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW). It’s a reminder to highway travelers and to fellow work zone workers that safety demands enhanced vigilance as people and machinery engage in work immediately adjacent to busy roads. Last November, PrePass shared some tips on work zones in the blog “7 Tips to Trucking Safely Through Road Construction” that are worth repeating:
- Read the signs
- Keep your distance
- Obey the reduced speed limit sign
- Merge safely and early
- Signal others what’s ahead
- Watch out for workers
- Be patient
Roadside activity, such as law enforcement assisting motorists, drivers swapping seats, or parents accompanying children on a roadside potty break demand awareness, too. If present, law enforcement will have their flashers on, to be sure. But unlike work zones, there won’t be road signs alerting traffic to upcoming activity. So, car doors may suddenly open, kids may dash around a car into traffic, or motorists may pull back onto the road without fully checking the lane. When you see roadside activity ahead, check if your left-hand lane is open, signal your intentions, and move over to give others the space they need to be safe. Your courteous action will likely cause others behind to move over, too.
Highway safety is about more than what is directly on the highway itself. It demands increased awareness when work zones and roadside activity may unexpectedly bring people and machinery into harm’s way.
This year’s NWZAW kick-off event is taking place in Washington, D.C., hosted by the District Department of Transportation on April 9, at the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge at 11 a.m., local time.
On April 10, it’s Go Orange Day, when all roadway safety professionals across the country are encouraged to wear orange to proudly show their support of work zone safety. Go Orange Day and NWZAW is an important time to show your support of the roadway safety industry, especially to the families of victims who have lost their lives in work zones.
You can also learn more about National Work Zone Awareness Week from the American Traffic Safety Services Association.