At its April 5 meeting, the Wright County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution naming April 11-15 as National Work Zone Awareness Week in Wright County.
The National Work Zone Memorial has more than 1,500 names on it from workers who were killed in work zone tragedies. Many of them are related to drivers who don’t take the precaution of slowing down to the posted work zone speeds.
It is an issue that has only grown in the past couple of years because of changes in driving habits that took place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Work zones have become increasingly dangerous for those who are standing out there,” Wright County Surveyor Steve Jobe said. “Back in the day when I was out there, you would have cars buzzing by and it could be scary, but you could handle it. I go out there now, I can’t assume when someone is coming up on someone who is standing in the road that are actually seeing you. It used to typically be a visibility thing that would be dangerous. Now so many drivers are going faster and there are so many distractions that drivers have that it can be dangerous to be out there.”
The Wright County Highway Department is the most at-risk because of the number of employees who work in areas where traffic is involved. The department offers work zone training classes to increase the safety of the employees. But, even with training, the unknowns of drivers who aren’t paying attention, distracted or speeding has heightened the concerned about those workers who are mere feet away from traffic rolling past them.
Wright County Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins said that his employees have noticed a perceptible difference in driving behavior that makes doing your job in a work zone more dangerous for a potential incident.
“Given the way people drive nowadays with speeding and distracted driving, any time our crews are out on the roads working, it can potentially be unsafe,” Hawkins said. “The problem with speeding has gotten much worse since the pandemic began. For whatever reason, over the last two years, we have had the most number of drivers either being caught or in crashes driving more than 100 miles per hour.”
While nobody likes seeing a work zone when they’re driving and trying to get to their destination as quickly as possible, but the message of National Work Zone Awareness Week is to slow down when you get to a work zone and understand that the workers are vulnerable to the potential hazards
To learn more about National Work Zone Awareness Week, click here: https://www.nwzaw.org.