Orange Alert: Work Zones are danger zones for workers and drivers

Submitted by Shawn Steward

Highway construction work zones continue to be a danger zone for motorists and road crews. There was an average of 4.8 work zone crashes every day in Kansas last year (1,779 crashes).

The good news – about 79 percent of the crashes involved property damage only. The bad news – in 2017, there were 12 people killed in Kansas work zone crashes and 491 people were injured. About 85 to 90 percent of the time, the people injured in work zone crashes are motorists.

To raise awareness of the problem and increase safety for road workers and motorists, AAA Kansas, along with the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and Kansas Highway Patrol, is observing National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 9 through 13.

“Highway construction crews work in dangerous conditions, often just a few feet away from speeding traffic,” said Jennifer Haugh, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Kansas. “Too often, drivers are inattentive, driving too fast, following too close or changing lanes or yielding right-of-way improperly in designated work zones, putting those workers’ lives at risk. We urge motorists to slow down, move over when possible and drive extra carefully, not only in work zones, but also whenever there is a tow truck or other emergency vehicle on the side of the road.”

Kansas Work Zone Facts

• Fines are doubled in all Kansas work zones, whether they are major construction projects or short-term maintenance projects. If you don’t slow down, you will pay up.

• The Kansas Move Over Law requires motorists on four-lane highways to switch to the lane furthest from any stationary vehicle displaying flashing lights, if it is safe to do so. On two-lane highways, slow down and proceed with caution. Citations carry a $195 fine plus court costs.

“Nationally in 2016, 765 people died in work zone crashes, with 635 of those fatalities being vehicle drivers and passengers,” Haugh said, citing National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics. “Those numbers are significant and tragic, but there are precautions motorists can take to make road workers safer while also protecting themselves and their passengers while traveling through work zones.”

Tips for Driving Safely in and Around Work Zones

• Know Before You Go. Check your phone apps, agency websites, and the radio for the latest traffic information to ensure a safe and timely trip.

• Wear Your Seatbelt. It is your best defense in a crash.

• Expect the Unexpected. Work zones change often. The area you drove through yesterday may look different today.

• Avoid Distractions. Distracted driving in a work zone can have deadly consequences. Put down your phone and keep your eyes on the road.

• Pay Attention to Other Drivers. Narrowed traffic patterns provide less ability to maneuver around other vehicles safely. Paying attention can prevent the need for evasive actions in work zones.

• Don’t Speed or Tailgate. Keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you and don’t speed. Tailgating and speeding lead to crashes with other vehicles and field workers.

• Obey Road Crews and Signs. Flaggers know how best to move traffic safely in work zones. The warning signs are there to help you and other drivers move safely.

• Be Patient and Stay Calm. Work zone crew members are working to improve the road and make your future drive better. Stay calm and drive safely.

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