By: Steve Vaughn, vice president of field operations, PrePass Safety Alliance

Here’s the good news: with the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill being signed into law, more federal dollars will flow to road construction, expansion, and repair across the country. When the winter weather lifts, we’ll begin to see the familiar orange cones that symbolize progress.

Here’s some more good news: April 11-15, 2022 is National Work Zone Awareness Week. This is worth noting because we can all use a reminder at the start of road construction season to take extra care when driving through work zones.

It’s a sad fact, but work zone crashes and fatalities continue to increase. In 2019, the last full year for statistics, there were 762 fatal crashes with 842 fatalities in work zones nationally. Those numbers represent, respectively, a 9.8% and a 7.6% increase over the previous three-year average.

Trucks were involved in 247 of those work zone crashes and 288 of the fatalities. Truck-involved crashes were up 19.5% over the three-year average, while truck-involved fatalities grew 16.5%. And now, the welcome infusion of fresh federal money may bring even more work zones in 2022.

As truck fleet managers, as law enforcement personnel, as ordinary highway users, we all know the reasons that work zones can be dangerous. Work zones slow our travel. Work zones introduce narrow lanes, slower posted speeds, abrupt curves, and even stopped traffic where free-flowing, high speeds once existed. Work zones may also bring the unexpected – workers and machinery right there in front of us. They can frustrate the impatient driver. Orange may mean “slow down,” but some drivers see red.

Here are seven tips to trucking safely through work zones. Tell your drivers:

  • Read the signs. Work zone signs tell you changes in the normal traffic pattern are ahead. Pay attention.
  • Keep your distance. Leave enough space between your truck and the vehicle ahead of you. Be prepared to slow down or stop unexpectedly.
  • Obey the reduced speed limit sign. Stopping is easier when traveling at or below the recommended work zone speed limit. Be ready to slow or stop by keeping your speed in check.
  • Merge safely and early. When work zones require lane changes, move into the open lane at your earliest, safe opportunity. Watch your “blind spots,” as other vehicles may speed up to get in front of you.
  • Signal others what’s ahead. You sit up higher in the cab. When you see slowing or stopped traffic, turn on your flashers to signal traffic behind you.
  • Watch out for workers. A highway work zone means workers and their machinery may enter your traffic lane. Your complete attention is the best defense against a crash.
  • Be patient. A work zone is a sign of improvement – smoother pavement, safer routing, stronger bridges in the future. Take your time. That “End Road Work” sign in the distance is a “thank you” for being a safe and courteous truck driver.

April 11-15, 2022, National Work Zone Awareness Week, is just the start to road construction season. Let’s make this season safer than ever before!

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and toll-payment/management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

This blog was originally published in the IdeaXchange