Highway construction and maintenance workers often spend their days and nights short distances from traffic, creating a work zone that tragically can turn into a danger zone.
Virginia Department of Transportation employees and contractors will team up to build awareness about work zone safety with events around the state during the April 7 to 11 Work Zone Awareness Week.
The central event will be at the VDOT Workers’ Memorial off Interstate 64 on Afton Mountain east of Waynesboro. VDOT Commissioner David S. Ekern will keynote the event, which will include the display of 11 traffic cones to represent the 11 fatalities in Virginia work zones that occurred in 2007. Virginia’s Work Zone Awareness Week is tied to the National Work Zone Awareness Week theme, “Slow for the Cone Zone.” The Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance (VTCA) will join VDOT for the ceremonies.
VDOT and VTCA representatives have been working to educate younger drivers about the hazards of work zones by speaking to high school driver’s education classes around the state for several years. The speakers emphasize the importance of giving one’s full, undistracted attention to driving through work zones.
“Statistics show the younger, more inexperienced drivers are the ones most frequently involved in crashes,” Ekern said. “If we have conversations with these young drivers and make them more familiar with what’s going on in a work zone, we hope to make them think more about the consequences of unsafe driving.”
The concept of a work zone safety awareness effort was conceived by a VDOT engineer in the agency’s Bristol District in 1997. It has grown into a nationwide observance and a year-round opportunity to work with student drivers. More than 97,000 Virginia students have heard the work zone safety message since 2003.
In addition to face-to-face talks with students, VDOT keeps motorists informed about work zones through its toll-free 511 phone number and its Web site, VirginiaDOT.org.
“VDOT continuously strives to make work zones and the workers in them more visible and better protected, in addition to always thinking of ways to keep motorists informed and safe,” Ekern said. “The responsibility of being informed and being attentive falls on the shoulders of motorists.”