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Virginia’s governor urges drivers to slow ‘at the first sign of a work zone’

National Work Zone Awareness Week starts today

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is urging all drivers to slow down and be alert when they see “the first sign of a work zone.”

His statement came today as National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) kicks off across the country. This weeklong national commemoration has been held each year since 2000 at the start of the spring roadway construction season to raise awareness for all motorists.

Statistics show that motorists and their passengers make up the majority of deaths due to work zone crashes. In 2020, the most recent year for which national data is available, 857 people were killed in work zone incidents, according to the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse. Of the 156 pedestrians killed in work zones in 2020, 51 were work zone personnel.

Overall, there were an estimated 102,000 work zone crashes and 44,000 injuries in 2020 in work zone incidents, according to the clearinghouse data.

“Behind the barrels and signs, highway workers are standing inches away from traffic as they improve our roads. They are sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. They are neighbors, coaches and friends. Their mission is to keep you, your passengers and cargo safe while traveling across the 125,000 miles of roadway in Virginia,” Youngkin said in a statement released by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). “I want all Virginians and visitors to arrive safely at their destination. Please slow down and pay careful attention at the first sign of a work zone.” 

VDOT, which originated the idea for NWZAW with an event it held in 1997, is hosting this year’s event and developed the theme, “Work Zones are a Sign to Slow Down.”

The National Kickoff Event for NWZAW will be held Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. ET at the Fort Monroe Continental Gazebo in Hampton, Va., which overlooks the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Project. The event will also be streamed live.

NWZAW now includes a theme for each day.

  • April 11 – Work Zone Safety Training Day in which companies are encouraged to pause during the workday for safety demonstrations, discussions about safety policies and other prevention steps to protect people in work zones.
  • April 12 – National Kickoff Event as described above. In addition, departments of transportation across the country and private companies organize events in their locations.
  • April 13 – Go Orange Day when everyone is encouraged to wear orange to show support for work zone safety and the families of victims who have lost their lives in work zones. Photos can be posted on social media with #NWZAW and #Orange4Safety.
  • April 14 – Social media storm in which organizations, companies, agencies and individuals are encouraged to share messages and use hashtags #NWZAW and #WorkZoneSafety throughout social media between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. EDT.
  • April 15 – Moment of Silence. People are encouraged to take part in this new event for 2022 to remember the people who lost their lives in a work zone incident.

 

Throughout the week, VDOT will alert drivers to the trend of increasing highway work zone fatalities, which grew significantly from 11 fatalities in 2020 to 28 in 2021, according to VDOT statistics. Nationwide, 85% of those who died in a work zone were motorists or passengers.  

“Work Zones are a Sign to Slow Down” highlights the risk for highway workers and calls attention to a driver’s responsibility to reduce speed and pay attention to make work zones safe for everyone, according to the VDOT news release

“This week, let’s recognize VDOT workers’ service and sacrifice to build, maintain and operate our roads, bridges and tunnels. Work zones can be challenging for motorists to navigate, with construction equipment, lane closures and traffic pattern changes. We want to keep everyone safe, whether you’re working on the road or traveling on one,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller said in the release. 

VDOT’s workforce consists of more than 7,500 VDOT employees and contractors who are committed to the safety of the traveling public.  

“The men and women of VDOT are working to improve and maintain roads that lead all Virginians home. Our crews and contractors want to go home at the end of the day, too,” Virginia Commissioner of Highways Stephen Brich said in the release. “VDOT is leading a new effort to educate drivers on how to safely navigate a work zone not only to protect our employees and private partners, but all travelers in the Commonwealth.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was among other officials across the country issuing statements in support of NWZAW.

“Driving in a work zone requires your undivided attention. The men and women who work hard each day to ensure that we have safe roads and bridges in good condition deserve to make it home safely to their family at the end of the day,” DeWine said. “Drivers can protect themselves and our workers simply by slowing down.”

Last year, there were 4,796 crashes in Ohio work zones, 35% of them occurred with workers present, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). These crashes resulted in 1,759 injuries and 29 deaths. Of those, 20 workers were injured and 1 killed.

VDOT said it will continue working with other state transportation departments, federal government agencies, national road safety organizations, private companies and industry leaders to educate travelers on work zone safety.

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