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The Extra Mile

Safety & Sustainability

Why Work Zone Awareness is Even More Critical in 2023

The Yellow Team | April 14, 2023

    Orange cones at a highway construction work zone.

    New infrastructure money means there will be more workers on our nation’s roadways than in previous years. 


    April 17 kicks off National Work Zone Awareness Week, a nationwide campaign to alert drivers of the need to use caution when driving through work zones in order to reduce fatalities and injuries. 


    The week-long event occurs each spring as the temperatures rise and transportation departments begin deploying workers and contractors for road improvement projects. 


    Raising awareness about driving cautiously through work zones is especially crucial this year, as the number of highway projects are expected to increase, thanks to the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress in late 2021. The bill allocates $1.25 trillion for a wide range of infrastructure improvements over the next five to 10 years. More than $260 billion of that money is earmarked for improving the nation’s aging highways and bridges.


    “Slowing down and applying increased caution when driving through a construction work zone is critically important,” said Tamara Jalving, Yellow’s vice president of safety. “That awareness is especially crucial in the next few years, as we are certain to see more orange barrels and highway improvements than usual.”  


    Three Types of Distracted Driving


    How would you like it if someone sped through your workplace? 


    That’s what highway construction workers deal with every day they are on the job. Many drivers do not abide by the orange speed limit signs posted before entering a work zone. 


    Other drivers are simply distracted. 


    April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It’s a reminder of a growing problem on the nation’s highways – drivers who, for one reason or another, aren’t paying enough attention to what’s happening on the road. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, nine people are killed each day in the United States in accidents that involve a distracted driver. The NHTSA estimates that more than 500,000 drivers are visibly manipulating a handheld electronic device while operating their vehicle at a typical daylight moment.


    There are three types of distracted driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding them can help you manage the way you handle your own driving through traffic. 


    • Visual: taking your eyes off the road. 

    • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel. 

    • Cognitive: taking your mind off driving. 


    Technology devices like smartphones have received a lot of blame for the uptick in distracted driving accidents in recent years. But the problem is larger than that. Studies have shown that a driver will make as many as 160 independent decisions for each mile on the road – ranging from adjusting hand positions on the steering wheel to gently tapping the brake. When a driver is distracted – whether he or she is looking at a text message, changing the radio station or thinking about what to make for dinner – the number of actions taken is cut in half, increasing the risk of an accident. 


    According to a recent report by SmartDrive, distracted drivers exhibit driving errors at a much higher rate than all other drivers. Furthermore, drivers who are distracted by mobile devices are at an even greater risk than those who are distracted by other things. For instance, drivers who are on their electronic devices are 3.5 times more likely to run a stoplight, increasing the likelihood of a collision.

    Tips for driving through work zones

    What is Work Zone Awareness Week?


    Originally started in 1997 by a group of Virginia Department of Transportation staff members, Work Zone Awareness Week became a national campaign in 2000, led by the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), the Federal Highway Administration as well as other state DOTs and government agencies. Eight years ago, organizers rolled out Go Orange Day as part of the week. It has become a day for individuals to express their support for work zone safety by wearing orange. Today, more than 100 organizations nationwide participate in a social media campaign by posting images of various Go Orange Day events, under the hashtag #Orange4Safety.


    The ATSS Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports family members and loved ones who have been affected by work zone accidents. In addition to organizing Work Zone Awareness Week, the foundation also maintains the National Work Zone Memorial, a traveling exhibit that includes more than 1,600 names to honor workers who have been killed in work zone accidents.   

    Highway work zone construction workers under a vivid blue sky

    How You Can Participate


    More people are getting involved each year in Work Zone Awareness Week, many of whom do not even work in the transportation industry. Here’s a list of the nationwide events that are happening next week: 


    • Monday, April 17 - Work Zone Safety Training Day

    • Tuesday, April 18 - Kickoff Event, hosted this year by the Missouri Department of Transportation 

    • Wednesday, April 19 - Go Orange Day

    • Thursday, April 20 - Social media storm, in which participants post about the work zone safety awareness 

    • Friday, April 21 – Moment of Silence for those workers who have been killed in work zone-related accidents 


    For more information about the week, visit the National Work Zone Awareness Week website here

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