As state and local road agencies from across the country recognize the 12th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 23-27, the County Road Association of Michigan reminds motorists that safer driving creates safer work zones, and not to barrel through work zones.
"Ensuring the safety of road workers and motorists takes cooperation on both sides of the barrel," County Road Association Director John Niemela said. "As roadways get more congested and workers are present, more attention is needed to driving. It is not just road workers at risk, but motorists as well."
More than 85 percent of all people killed in highway work zone crashes are drivers and passengers, not highway workers. Although traffic fatalities are down significantly with increased public education efforts and law enforcement, Michigan experienced more than 5100 traffic crashes in 2010 where construction activity was present.
While many factors contribute to deadly work zone crashes, driver behavior plays a huge role.
"We ask motorists to slow down, buckle up, drive sober, pay attention- and at all times- drive as if their life depends on it- because it just might," Niemela said. "Although it is very early in the construction season we have already experienced serious work zone crashes, taking the life of a highway worker."
In Michigan, most work zones are posted at 45 M.P.H. where workers are present. Motorists speeding in work zones are subject to doubled fines and additional points against their driver license. Causing the injury of another person in a work zone is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and $1,000 in fines, and causing the death of a person in a work zone is a felony punishable by and up to 15 years in prison and $7,500 in fines.
The National Work Zone Awareness Week campaign was initiated in 1999 by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), and the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (ASHTO) to build public awareness of work zone safety. Now in its 12th year, the 2012 theme is "Don't Barrel Through Work Zones."
The County Road Association of Michigan represents Michigan's 83 county road agencies that collectively maintain more than 75 percent of Michigan roads- more than 90,000 miles- the fourth largest local road system in the nation.