Editor’s note: Following is a column submitted by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Gov. Tony Evers proclaimed this past week as Work Zone Awareness Week, and the state Department of Transportation is taking part in a nationwide campaign to spread awareness about safe driving as construction and maintenance ramps up for the spring and summer months.
“Work zones are temporary, but our decisions behind the wheel can make an impact forever,” DOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said.
“Each moment of focused, attentive driving is a moment that can save a life,” he said.
Preliminary data shows 3,157 crashes were recorded in Wisconsin work zones in 2018, causing nine deaths and 1,274 injuries.
Data shows that Wisconsin averages nine work zone crashes daily in the construction season.
Tailgating is the most commonly identified factor, while distracted driving and alcohol or drug use continue to be prevalent factors as well.
“It only takes a momentary distraction to create a highly dangerous situation on the road,” said Tony Burrell, superintendent of the Wisconsin State Patrol.
“A reduced speed of 55 mph might feel slower compared to 65 or 70, but you’re still going to cover 80 feet per second through areas with narrow, shifting lanes,” he said. “Drivers need to stay focused.”
Drivers and passengers make up the vast majority of those injured or killed in a work zone crash, but workers remain highly at risk as well.
Earlier this year, a Milwaukee Department of Public Works employee was struck and killed while filling a pothole.
In 2015, three highway workers were killed in separate incidents in Calumet, Shawano and Lincoln counties.
One was rear ended while driving a sweeper truck, and two were flaggers who were struck by vehicles.
How can you help?
• Drive safely, avoid distractions and obey posted speed limits. Be courteous and patient.
• Leave the phone alone. Texting and driving is illegal statewide and talking on a hand-held mobile device is illegal in work zones.
• Slow down when you see workers and, if possible, provide additional space by moving over.