Let’s Flatten the Curve on Work Zone Crashes

Lisa Robinson

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many are driving less because of stay-at-home orders. Yet, some are on the roads every day performing essential duties, including those working in infrastructure and transportation sectors.

We need to thank them through our words. We need to thank them through our actions. And, now more than ever, that means we need to prioritize safety. While the world all around us has changed, the rules of the road have not. During National Work Zone Awareness Week, we owe it to the men and women on the front line to apply the brakes on reckless driving behaviors.

You have witnessed first-hand or heard reports about the rise in speeding incidents all across the country, some motorists clocked at more than 100 mph. They believe they are invincible. They believe they won’t get pulled over because patrol officers are preoccupied. And they are putting all of us at risk.

Driver inattention and speeding are two of the leading causes of construction zone crashes. This is no time to let our guard down.

“Work zone safety is a year-round concern, and particularly as we move into the peak construction season,” said Jerry Ullman, Regents Fellow at Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Ullman took the lead during a webinar presentation I moderated as the head of the Our Driving Concern Texas Employer Traffic Safety Program.

“You are right – traffic volumes are way down,” he said. “Hopefully we start to return to normal levels later this summer. But fewer vehicles on the road doesn’t mean that work zone safety is less important. In fact, it may be a little more important because we are seeing evidence of people traveling faster.”

In the U.S., 754 people were killed and 45,400 were injured in work zone crashes in 2018, according to the National Safety Council. Drivers and passengers account for the majority of fatalities. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows an average of 56 worker-pedestrians are killed each year.

Let’s pull together to flatten the curve on work zone crashes, reduce injuries and fatalities. The only acceptable number is zero. Share these five safety tips:

  • Plan ahead. Research your route. Use detours when possible.
  • Stay focused. Silence your phone. Set your GPS device and pick a music playlist before you depart.
  • Slow down. Lane closures and traffic pattern shifts are common in work zones.
  • Think ahead. Anticipate lane closures and move early into open lanes. Pay attention to other vehicles, including those that might be “hidden” in your blind spots.
  • Back off. Rear-end crashes are common in work zones. Allow for extra space between your vehicle and the one directly in front of you. Never cut off a bus or truck. Big vehicles are unable to make sudden stops.

I believe embracing safety is the best way to say thank you. What about you?

– Lisa Robinson is a senior program manager at the National Safety Council