As Part of National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 11- 15),
Hamilton, NJ –Road work zones that are highlighted with neon orange signs alerting drivers to slow down can be extremely dangerous areas for road workers especially on heavily traveled roads, like the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, where motorists are driving at very high rates of speed. The presence of large trucks, construction equipment, changing traffic patterns, flaggers, stopped vehicles and reduced speed limits creates an environment where being alert can be the difference between life and death.
The number of lives lost in work zone-related traffic crashes nationally has increased in 2014 by more than 13% compared to 2013. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), there were a total of 669 fatalities in work zones in 2014—the highest since 2009. (The most recent available FARS - Fatality Analysis Reporting System data.)
The theme for this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week is "Don't Be That Driver!" which coincides with Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April. "This year’s theme reinforces the message to motorists that driving in and around work zones requires motorists’ full attention,” stated Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Because the most frequent type of work zone crash is a rear-end collision, it is especially important in work zones that motorists remain alert and avoid distractions,” Noble added.
In 2014, distracted driving was a factor in 16% of fatal crashes in work zones, while speeding was a factor in 29%. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), cell phone use decreases brake time by 18%, and causes a 25% increase in erratic driving.
- Driver and vehicle passengers accounted for 82% of work zone fatalities;
- 669 work zone traffic-related fatalities occurred (up 13% from 2013), with 46 crashes involving multiple fatalities;
- 31,251 work zone injuries occurred (a 9% increase from 2013);
- 116 worker fatalities occurred (a 9% increase from 2013); and
- 246 large trucks and buses (235 large trucks, 11 buses) were involved in fatal crashes in work zones (a 27% increase from 2013).
AAA Mid-Atlantic offers the following work zone safety tips to motorists:
- When you see orange signs, cones and barrels, or a work truck, expect a roadside work zone ahead, which typically indicates reducing your speed.
- Travelers are encouraged to visit state (http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/) and local department of transportation websites for the latest road travel information and plan alternative routes to their destinations as needed. Motorists are encouraged to check for planned work zone delays and traffic advisories and allot extra travel time prior to departing for their trip.
- Stay alert! Look for reduced speed limits, narrow driving lanes and highway workers. Work zone signs will tell you exactly what to expect ahead.
- Reduce speed. You may encounter slowed or stopped traffic in an instant.
- Don’t follow too closely. Maintain a safe distance on all sides of your vehicle.
- Minimize distractions. Remember New Jersey State law bans hand-held cell phones and texting.
- Plan ahead. 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.
“Simple tasks such as slowing down, observing posted advisories, preparing for unusual driving conditions and practicing patience can reduce a motorist’s crash risk and help keep motorists and highway workers stay safe in work zones,” Noble said.
National Work Zone Awareness Week began in 1999 when the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Federal Highway Administration, and the American Traffic Safety Services Association joined forces to increase public awareness at the start of the highway construction season. In 2000, it became a national event and awareness has grown ever since, with State DOTs and other organizations sponsoring high-visibility education and outreach initiatives at this same time every year.