The New Jersey Work Zone Safety Partnership hosted the Fifth Annual Work Zone Safety Conference at the new Marriott Hotel at Lafayette Yard in Trenton, NJ.
The New Jersey Work Zone Safety Partnership is a collaboration of the state’s heavy and highway contractors, union leaders, and state and federal agencies, dedicated to promoting safe work zones throughout the state.
This year’s Work Zone Awareness Week was April 4 to 10, on a national level. The New Jersey Partnership held its annual conference a week earlier.
The purpose of the week is to bring awareness to the traveling public about the dangers to construction workers and to the motorists that exist in highway work zones to prevent injuries and deaths in the state’s work zones. The partnership hopes to make the motoring public aware that it holds the following national statistics in its hands:
• Over the past six years the number of persons killed in motor vehicle crashes in work zones had gone from 693 in 1997 to a high of 1,185 in 2003 — for an average of 938 fatalities per year.
• On average from 1997 to 2002, 15 percent of the fatalities resulting from crashes in work zones were non-motorists — pedestrians and bicyclists.
• More than 40,000 people per year are injured as a result of motor vehicle crashes in work zones.
• The most frequent type of crashes in work zones are rear-end crashes.
The conference covered important safety topics for everyone who does business or travels through the state. In addition, an awards luncheon was held to honor men and women from across the state from all facets of the construction industry who made great strides to improve highway safety for their employees, co-workers and the motoring public.
Speakers at the conference included New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) Commissioner John F. Lettiere; Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman John Wisniewski; NJ LECET Representative Joseph McNamara; Vice President of Public Affairs of AAA South Jersey Jodilyn Tofts; and State Police Sergeant Ray Glowacki.
The speakers recognized that during National Work Zone Safety Week a series of 10 easy safety guidelines for traveling through a work zone are re-enforced nationwide. These safety tips are included in a packet and include such tips as minimizing distractions while driving and remaining patient.
“Safety is not an accident — it’s the result of careful planning, constant diligence and a shared commitment with our contractors and construction unions. We will continue to improve how we set up and operate work zones to enhance safety, as well as reach out to motorists to do their part and drive safely,” said Lettiere.
He said this year the DOT plans to begin using a highly reflective tape to mark off work zones. The special tape is particularly effective in rainy weather by improving visibility.
In addition, the DOT will continue to reach out to driver education teachers to include work zone safety as part of their instruction. The DOT has met with 160 instructors statewide.
“The message to motorists when driving through work zones is simple — slow down, pay attention, and don’t tailgate,” said Lettiere.
“We often forget to appreciate the result of the hard work that men and women who labor on our roadways produce. They enable us to visit our family and conduct our business easily. And while we need to thank them, the best thing we can do is be mindful of their safety as we pass work zones by slowing down, being observant, and by following the rules,” said Wisniewski.
The New Jersey Work Zone Safety Partnership has been recognized nationally for its progressive approach to promoting safety awareness. The state of New Jersey and its construction workers have reaped the benefits of their efforts. While the national trend of injuries and fatalities continues to grow, New Jersey’s totals have remained very low due to the commitment of this one-of-a-kind partnership.
In 2001, there were zero NJDOT work zone safety deaths, but in 2002, there were four throughout the state — all related to driver inattentiveness. In 2003, there was one fatal crash, resulting in one death.
“The summer months are typically filled with many roadway improvement projects. AAA urges motorists to drive with caution and obey the posted speed limits for their safety and those working within the construction zones,” commented Tofts.