Hamilton, NJ – Warm, spring weather means the start of road-work season.  And with a very mild winter behind us, expect to see many more work zones popping up as state governments recycle their unused snow plowing budgets into paving projects.  While roadway workers face obvious risks to their safety, nearly 85 percent of those killed in work zone crashes are drivers or their passengers, not the roadway workers. During National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 15 – 19), AAA urges motorists to use caution and drive safely when approaching and driving through work zones.

The number of lives lost in work zone-related traffic crashes nationally has increased year over year.  In 2011, 587 people died in highway work-zone fatalities. That's an increase of 11 fatalities compared to 2010, and its 587 too many.

“The men and women working in these road construction zones are helping maintain and improve our highways and bridges to make travel smoother and safer for you, for your passengers, and for everyone who uses our roadways. They deserve to be able to do that work safely,” Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic said. “A motorist’s crash risk in a work zone can be significantly reduced through the simple tasks of slowing down, observing posted advisories, preparing for unusual driving conditions and practicing patience.”

AAA offers the following work zone safety tips to motorists:

Plan Ahead – Motorists are encouraged to check for planned work zone delays and traffic advisories and allot extra travel time prior to departing for their trip. Travelers may use AAA’s online TripTik® Travel Planner to create maps and get turn-by-turn directions. TripTik® Travel Planner identifies longer-term construction areas and delivers advisory messages for such things as areas of historic congestion. Travelers are encouraged to visit state and local department of transportation websites for the latest road travel information and plan alternative routes to their destinations as needed. For on-the-go use, the routing feature in AAA’s free TripTik Mobile app assists motorists to navigate a new route.

Reduce Speed – For the safety of all drivers and construction workers, normal posted speed limits are often reduced in work zones. Most states double fines for speeding in work zones when workers are present. Drivers should not underestimate the speed at which they’re traveling before beginning to slow down; it can take longer than a driver may think to reduce a vehicle’s speed enough to safety enter the work zone area. Motorists, while keeping consistent with the flow of traffic, should maintain a safe distance between vehicles ahead, traffic barriers, construction workers and equipment.

Remain Alert – As with any driving situation, minimize interior and exterior distractions. Motorists should obey the directions of any police officer, firefighter or road crew flagger and follow all posted work zone advisories and signage. Temporary work zone signs are orange and commonly diamond-shaped. Construction zones may contain unusual vehicles or machinery that can divert a driver’s attention as well as traffic cones, barrels, flashing lights and concrete barriers. Drivers should be prepared to stop, slow down, shift lanes, merge and yield to the movement of construction workers and equipment. Motorists should not turn off their vehicles when stopped on the roadway unless they will be idling for a significant period of time.