Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week
The one thing we can always expect in Atlanta after a long week of rush hour woes, is more of it on the weekend with construction teams on every highway and major delays. The only thing that prevents running into construction teams out on every major thoroughfare is harsh weather conditions and the occasional holiday. Other than that, Atlanta drivers can expect to run into construction.
Because of the amount of construction always going on, most of us missed the fact that last week marked the 16th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week. While most commuters were totally unaware of it, and it passed us by without any hoopla, the message brought forth needs to stick with us. Extra Care is needed by drivers through the many construction zones around town, because construction zones can be dangerous for commuters and pedestrians, as well as for the construction workers!
In 2013 there were 579 work zone related fatalities in the United States. That is an incredible figure! In 23 percent of those deadly incidents, speed was the major factor. And of the 579 lives lost, 105 were workers, which means that more than 4 times as many drivers, passengers and pedestrians were killed in work zones than the workers. That's a staggering figure. And in addition to the loss of lives there 29,000 work zone injuries.
There is good news, though. These staggering statistics are dropping. Since 1999 (when the National Work Zone Awareness Week was launched) work zone fatalities have decreased by 34 percent. Here in Georgia, there have been 57 Georgia DOT employees killed in work zone incidents since 1973. But in 2014, no DOT employees were killed in work zone incidents. That's a remarkable decrease, even though there were 20 total work zone fatalities, include a GDOT contractor.
As we enter into the summer months, when we see more and more construction projects on the road, DOT offers us some advice on how to avoid work zone incidents:
**First off, know what the situation looks like before you jump out into the weekend rat race: Check on what the construction situation looks like in your area, and the area you're heading into before you hit the road by calling 511 or going online to www.511ga.org, for updates.
**Secondly, and most importantly, don't speed: Obey the posted speed limit even when workers are not present.
**Obey road crew flaggers: Failure to obey speed limit signs or a flagger's traffic control directions can result in hefty fines and/or imprisonment.
**Always expect the unexpected: Things may change overnight. Normal speeds may be reduced, traffic lanes may be closed, narrowed or shifted, and people may be working on or near the roadway.
**Stay alert and minimize distractions: Give your full attention to the roadways and avoid changing lanes and using cell phones and other electronic devices while approaching and driving in a work zone.
**Wear your seatbelt: Don't rely solely on airbags. Seatbelts save lives.
Although the Work Zone Awareness week has passed, Atlanta's commuters can keep alive these safety tips with the understanding that preparing to succeed in your journey, be in a long trip or a trip around the corner, can save your life and the lives of those construction crew members, who are working to make your streets and roadways safer. Have a safe springtime and summer traveling the highways & byways!