FRANKFORT, Ky. - As warm weather sweeps across the Commonwealth bringing signs of spring, motorists can expect to see orange cones and flashing lights on roadways as construction and maintenance activities resume. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is driving attention to National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) - April 8-12 - to encourage motorists to take a vested interest in work zone safety by slowing down and driving without distractions in active work zones.
With roadway construction season kicking off in April across Kentucky, many motorists will encounter a work zone during their daily commute or summer travels. Although highway work zones are high-risk sites for crew members, the safety of drivers and their passengers is also on the line. While the number of work zone fatalities dropped sharply from 12 in 2017 to three in 2018, all three victims were non-crew workers. The number of work zone crashes rose 3 percent from 1,007 in 2017 to 1,042 in 2018.
Among the contributing causes of work zone crashes, distracted driving is significant. Distracted driving behaviors may include texting or operating a phone while driving, eating, or applying makeup. Last year, 53 percent of work zone crashes listed distracted driving as a factor.
"With April being National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it's the perfect opportunity to educate motorists on the importance of paying attention not only when driving through work zones, but any time you get behind the wheel," said Kentucky Office of Highway Safety Acting Executive Director Jason Siwula. "In order to keep everyone safe on our roadways, please put your phone down and just drive."
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) statistics are in line with Kentucky's work zone fatality numbers that indicate motorists are more at risk in a work zone. According to FHWA, in a typical five-day workweek, an average of seven motorists and one worker are killed around the nation in work zones.
"As the weather gets warmer, highway workers are heading outdoors to improve our roads and keep us moving," said Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson. "We all need to do our part and drive carefully, so that we can help keep everyone safe wherever construction is underway."
State and nationwide solidarity to promote work zone safety
To promote safer work zones and to prompt a reduction in the number of preventable crashes, Gov. Bevin signed a proclamation declaring April 8-12 Work Zone Safety Week in Kentucky.
Behind every high-visibility vest is a person counting on the caution exercised by an unknown driver. Throughout the week, KYTC will share testimonials and post messages on overhead signs to encourage safe driving behaviors.
For the third year, KYTC invites public involvement to support work zone safety by illuminating buildings, landmarks, bridges, structures and homes with the color orange to show support of work zone safety during the April 8-12 week. Participants and observers are encouraged to tweet photos of orange-lit structures to Twitter using #glowky. Some prominent structures to look for on April 10 include the Florence Y'all Water Tower in Florence and the Big Four Bridge in Louisville.
Thursday offers another opportunity for industry partners and the public to demonstrate they are vested in work zone safety by sporting high-vis vests or gear, taking a photo and posting it on social media using hashtag #vestedinwzsafety.
To help prevent future work zone crashes, the Transportation Cabinet asks drivers to practice three work zone safety tips:
-- Pay Attention - Don't text, eat or perform any other activity while driving.
-- Respect Flaggers - Obey their guidance and watch their direction carefully.
-- Slow Down - Maintain a safe following distance; rear-end collisions are the most common work zone crash.
To read work zone stories and to stay current with KYTC's 2019 work zone awareness campaign, connect with the Cabinet on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and follow the #vestedinwzsafety and #glowky conversations. For more information, visit the KYTC's work zone safety webpage.