Drivers and car occupants suffer four out of five fatalities in U.S. highway work zones. This statistic alone should encourage drivers to be more cautious when driving through work zones.

“You can set up the best possible work zone from an engineering and enforcement perspective, but the one thing you can’t control is the driver speeding through the zone or driving in an inattentive fashion,” says Jennifer Gavin, deputy director of communications for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. She says that’s why the push, under way now, is to remind the driving public of the consequences of not exercising proper vigilance and adhering to posted speed limits in work zones.

Work zone fatalities are increasing. In 2005, alone, there were 1,074 work zone fatalities—2.5% of all roadway fatalities for the year. Increasing construction activity is a contributing factor in this statistic.

“It will take a three-part effort,” says Gavin. “Engineering has to be strong. Enforcement has to be applied as broadly as possible within budget constraints. And finally, we've got to get across to drivers that this isn't somebody else's problem, and they are in control of it.”

Drivers should adhere to the following safety tips to help protect them from a work zone accident.

  • EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED — Normal speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people may be working on or near the road.
  • SLOW DOWN — Speeding is a major cause of work zone crashes.
  • DO NOT TAILGATE AND GIVE ROOM — Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you and the construction workers and their equipment.
  • PAY ATTENTION TO SIGNS AND OBEY FLAGGERS — The warning signs are there to help you and other drivers move safely through the work zone. The road crew fl agger knows what is best for moving traffic safely in the work zone.
  • STAY ALERT — Pay full attention to the roadway and avoid changing radio stations or using cell phones while driving in a work zone.

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