RICHMOND — The crew members of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and other emergency response workers are out on the highways and interstates every day to help build, maintain and rehabilitate Virginia’s infrastructure. During National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 15 to 19), VDOT is bringing attention to the role everyone plays in highway safety.
The 2013 national theme, “Work Zone Safety: We’re All in This Together,” emphasizes that work zone safety involves all who use our roadways whether they are motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians, law enforcement personnel and highway workers. Each year, VDOT joins the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Traffic Safety Services Association, state transportation agencies and industry partners to raise awareness of safe driving within work zones.
“Work zones may not always be what motorists want to see, but they are an important and necessary element of progress and improvement,” said Governor Bob McDonnell. “As we put vital transportation funding into action and more construction and maintenance projects get under way this spring and summer, Virginia’s travelers and visitors need to be aware of work zones and use caution.”
On the evening of Wednesday, April 17, the governor and First Lady Maureen McDonnell will light Virginia’s Executive Mansion orange as part of VDOT’s annual “Go Orange Day,” when VDOT employees and supporters wear orange to raise awareness about work zone safety.
If you would like to participate in Go Orange Day (Wednesday, April 17) and support Work Zone Awareness Week, send your photos to VDOTPhotoRequest@VDOT.virginia.gov and they will be included on VDOT’s Flickr site.
“Year-round, VDOT does its part to keep the traveling public safe,” said Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton. “We ask that motorists do their part by focusing on the road ahead and not on their cell phones or other distractions, and slowing down when they see the familiar signs, cones and barrels that mark work zones.”
VDOT will host a public event to honor fallen crew members at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16, at the VDOT Workers’ Memorial on Interstate 64 on Afton Mountain. Among the 132 whose names are engraved on the memorial is Carlos “Kent” Keen, who was killed in the line of duty on July 31, 2012, in Buchanan County.
“As we honor the life of Kent Keen and all those we have lost while performing their jobs, we remind everyone who travels Virginia’s roadways that work zone incidents can be prevented,” said VDOT Commissioner Greg Whirley. “Please slow down and pay attention when driving. Join us in supporting Work Zone Awareness Week and doing all you can to keep Virginia’s highways safe.”
The month of April is also Distracted Driving Awareness Month. VDOT, DRIVE SMART Virginia and GEICO are promoting safe driving by encouraging motorists to use established “Safe Phone Zones” during their travels. In 2012 with the help of statewide safety rest area sponsor GEICO, VDOT identified all 42 rest areas and welcome centers along Virginia’s interstates (as well as the site on the Route 13 on the Eastern Shore) as Safe Phone Zones. These areas provide a safe place to take a break from driving, check email and make phone calls.
In 2011, 587 motorists and highway workers were killed in work zone crashes nationwide. In 2012, preliminary analysis estimates that 3,065 crashes occurred in Virginia work zones, which resulted in 13 fatalities and 1,582 injuries.
More information about Work Zone Awareness Week is available on VDOT’s website.
Learn more about the VDOT Workers’ Memorial, including information about some of those individuals who are memorialized on the monument. Work Zone Awareness Week videos can be viewed on VDOT’s YouTube channel.
VDOT offers the following tips for motorists when they encounter highway work zones:
Minimize distractions. Dedicate your full attention to the road and those around you.
Stay alert, expect the unexpected. Keep an eye out for workers and their equipment.
Don’t change lanes in the work zone. The time saved just isn't worth it.
Follow the signs. Signs and flaggers will direct you through the work zone. Expect changes in traffic patterns as the project progresses.
Be patient. Remember, the crewmembers are working to improve the highway, and the safety and comfort of your future travels.
Don’t speed. Enhanced fines of up to $500 may be levied for speeding in a work zone.
Don’t tailgate. Unexpected stops frequently occur in work zones.
Before you travel, call 511 and log on to www.511Virginia.org for road and traffic conditions, weather forecasts and live traffic cameras on many major highways.