Happy National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW)!

This annual event is a great opportunity to spread awareness about the dangers of work zones and driving. What do you need to know about work zones to protect yourself, your car, and others on the road?

What Is NWZAW?

Every year, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) supports the NWZAW event in conjunction with the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA). A number of transportation partners have also joined the efforts to support NWZAW as a means of keeping workers and drivers safe on the road.

This year, NWZAW is April 9-13. This year’s event theme is “work zone safety is everybody’s responsibility.”

Work zone safety is everybody’s responsibility—including yours!

So what can you do to drive safely near work zones? How can you keep everyone, including yourself, safe on the road?

What Is A Work Zone?

A “work zone” is any area along or a road or highway with construction and roadside workers. This includes construction, maintenance, or utility activities. In some cases, it is only considered a “work zone” is while workers are present, while others define a “work zone” as anywhere with machinery or materials.

Most work zones are designated on the road with signs, cones, barrels, channeling devices, barriers, markings, work vehicles, or police presence. In some cases, there are also flashing lights that indicate the start and end of a work zone.

However, it’s important to note that not all work zones have physical barriers or markings. For example, landscapers working on a median would also be considered as an operating “work zone.”

While driving, you may have seen signs that read: “ticket fines doubled in work area.” This is because the government wants you to take extra precautions and care when driving near a work zone. If you are caught speeding, driving aggressively, or driving while distracted or intoxicated, your punishment could be double in a work zone. You may also be at greater risk for insurance claims if you cause an accident in these designated areas. 

Why is work zone safety so important?

Work zone accidents are consistently on the rise. According to FHWA, in 2015 a work zone accident occurred every 5.4 minutes. There was at least one injury daily and one fatality weekly from these work zone crashes. This number is much higher than it should be.  

Moreover, 73% of work zone crashes damage property. This can be a major financial expense, especially if you don’t have collision and comprehensive insurance.

Interestingly, though, the definition of “work zone” is dependent on state. The FHWA is still working to standardize the definition of a “work zone” for greater awareness and regulation. Without a standard definition, it can can be challenging to simplify and streamline laws regarding work zone safety.

That’s why work zone awareness is so important. Without consistent work zone regulations, all drivers need to be aware and use caution on roadside work zones.

Work Zone Safety Tips

1. Pay attention.

Keep your eyes open. Take note of all signs, barriers, and markings. Watch for movement, including flying debris and changes in position of nearby cars.

2. Avoid distractions.

Taking your eyes off the road for even 2 seconds increases your risk of crash by 24 times. Put your phone away while you’re driving. Keep the same radio station while moving through work areas to avoid taking your eyes off the road.

3. Merge early.

There will usually be signs or markers that indicate a work zone 50 to 100 yards prior. It will also give you a notice whether you’ll need to merge, change lanes, or adjust your route.

If you see flashing amber lights, move over as soon as you can. Try to merge early to avoid bringing your car to the edge of the work zone in that given lane. Do not speed up to a work zone and attempt force your way into the merged lane.

4. Don’t speed.

Speed is the highest risk factor that contributes to work zone crashes. If you see work zone signs or markers, slow down. In some cases, it’s recommended to go 10-20mph less than the typical speed limit for that area.

Stay patient. Your life and the life of the workers’ are most important.

Plus, the penalty for speeding in a highway work zone is usually doubled.

5. Don’t tailgate.

Most rear-end crashes occur from tailgating or following too closely. This is because the following car doesn’t have enough time or space to stop. If the car in front of you comes to an abrupt halt, you need at least 3 seconds to react and 1 second for every 10mph you’re traveling.

Thus, traveling on a highway at 65mph, you need at least 9 seconds to stop. If you’re tailgating, you wouldn’t have that 9 seconds and would likely hit the car in front of you. That can cause a chain reaction that can cause a serious and even fatal accident in a work zone.

6. Take a defensive driving course.

A defensive driving course can teach you methods to spot potential dangers before they occur. A number of courses will discuss work zones specifically due to the unique safety risks of these areas.

Plus, a defensive driving course may help you get a discount on your auto insurance premium.

Bottom Line

2% of all roadway fatalities occur in work zones. Work zone caution is critical to protect the safety of both workers drivers alike.

Do you want to protect your loved ones and community?

Share this article right now to spread the word about National Work Zone Awareness Week!