HAMPTON ROADS — One government organization is reminding drivers to travel a little more carefully this spring season.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced that Monday, April 26 marks the first day of National Work Zone Awareness Week, which lasts until April 30.
This year’s theme is: “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives,” and is meant to remind drivers that they play an “important role in keeping everyone safe,” according to VDOT.
“Work zones are a necessary part of highway improvement projects. Whether they mark and protect a crew replacing a failed drainage pipe or delineate a miles-long interstate expansion project, the signs, lights, barrels, cones and barriers alert motorists to slow down and pay attention as they navigate the area,” according to a statement provided by VDOT. “Work zones pose hazards to motorists as well as work crews; 80% of those killed in work zone crashes are vehicle occupants.”
VDOT noted that in 2020, 22 people died from crashes around work zones and 1,547 people were injured. Compared to 2019 statistics, VDOT added that there was a “35.2% decrease in work zone fatalities and a 14.8% decrease in work zone injuries from 2019,” which correlates to less people driving during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This week also marks the starts of “highway construction season.”
“The 2021 construction season is off to a poor start with work zone safety, and we have had too many incidents already,” said VDOT Commissioner Stephen C. Brich. “The safety of our people is always the top priority for our agency, and we need the public’s help. Work zones present unique hazards and driving through them requires total attention.”
“If drivers do their part, they will reach their destination safely and our men and women will go home safely to their loved ones,” Brich added.
Here is how you can safely navigate work zones, courtesy of VDOT:
- Expect the unexpected. Keep an eye out for workers and slow-moving equipment.
- Follow the signs. Signs and flaggers will direct you through work zones. Expect changes in traffic patterns as the project progresses.
- Don’t tailgate. Unexpected stops frequently occur in work zones.
- Don’t speed. Enhanced fines of up to $500 may be levied for speeding in a work zone.
- Never change lanes in a work zone.
- Focus and minimize distractions. Focus your full attention on the road and those traveling around you. Avoid changing radio stations, eating or using phones, even hands-free devices.
- Be patient. Crews are working to improve the safety and comfort of your travels.
- Know before you go. Call 511 for up-to-the-minute traffic and weather information from any phone in Virginia. Before you travel, log on to 511Virginia or check the free 511 Virginia mobile app for road and traffic conditions, weather forecasts and live traffic cameras on many major highways.
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