This week is National Work Zone Awareness Week, and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) encourages drivers to exercise caution when driving through areas where highway workers are present.
From April 8-12, state departments of transportation, highway safety offices and traffic safety organizations across the country will take part in an education campaign to raise awareness about the dangers workers face on the job every day.
The biggest danger highway workers face is from drivers who travel recklessly through construction zones, such as speeding or not paying attention. Since 1921, 189 Caltrans employees have been killed on the job. In 2017, 46 people were killed and more than 3,000 injured from crashes that happened in construction zones, according to data from the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
“With an average of more than $5 billion each year in new funding from Senate Bill 1 for critical infrastructure improvements, we now have twice as many highway work zones in California compared to two years ago,” said Caltrans Director Laurie Berman. “We want everyone to make it home safely and we’re working toward a reality where there are zero traffic-related deaths on California’s highways. We need help from all drivers to accomplish this goal. Please slow down, move over for amber flashing lights and drive cautiously, especially where crews are working. Your diligence can save a life.”
“Highway workers are the backbone of the roads we use to travel up and down the state,” OTS Director Rhonda Craft said. “We can all play a role in making sure highway workers are able to go home to their families each day by driving carefully when they are working close to traffic.”
National Work Zone Awareness Week started in 1999, the same year Caltrans launched the work zone safety campaign, “Slow for the Cone Zone.”
Caltrans and the OTS also recognize National Work Zone Awareness Week as a way to educate drivers on the importance of moving over a lane when approaching Caltrans workers, emergency vehicles and tow trucks on the side of the road.
California’s Move Over Law went into effect in 2007, and included Caltrans workers starting in 2009. The law requires drivers approaching Caltrans vehicles, tow trucks or emergency vehicles with flashing lights to move over a lane if safe to do so.
When traveling through work zones, drivers should practice the following work zone safety tips: Slow down and follow the speed limit; look out for workers, particularly at night; anticipate lane shifts and merge when directed to do so; avoid distractions like cell phones.
Also, be patient and expect delays, especially during peak travel times; obey road crews and signs; and pay attention to other drivers and avoid sudden lane changes.
Drivers can check on current maintenance work, road closures and traffic conditions using the Caltrans QuickMap at quickmap.dot.ca.gov, or by downloading the QuickMap app. The app is available for free on Google Play for Androids or the App Store for Apple products.
To learn more about the Caltrans “Be Work Zone Alert” campaign, visit dot.ca.gov/bwza. To receive information on the OTS “Go Safely, California” campaign, visit gosafelyca.org.