You’ve seen the signs, such as “Give ‘em a brake” and “Let ‘em work, let ‘em live.” But maybe you still can’t help being a bit unhappy when a slowdown in a work zone occurs. We all have family to take care of, work to accomplish, and appointments to keep; all of us get that. But the workers have lives, too. They have a job to do, and they deserve to stay alive and unhurt while doing it.
The belief that work zone workers should be safe while doing their jobs underscores the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) observance of National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), which occurs in 2017 from April 3 through 7. The FHWA has been backing this annual reminder since 1999. This year, the national kick-off event is in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Tuesday, April 4, at 10:30 a.m.
The 2017 NWZAW slogan, “Work Zone Safety is in Your Hands,” is supposed to keep drivers cognizant of their actions while traveling through work zones. Serious injury and death can befall work zone workers simply through the careless actions of drivers who don’t obey posted speed limits, who don’t follow traffic directions from signs and flaggers, or who don’t exercise due caution.
Distressing Maryland Work Zone Numbers
National data from 2014 shows there were a total of 669 work zone fatalities for that year. In Maryland, out of 442 traffic fatalities in 2014, 10 happened in work zones. From 2010 through 2014, Maryland had over 8,000 crashes related to work zones, with more than 3,600 persons suffering injuries.
Fatalities in work zones are not rare events. A Pasadena, MD, driver fatally struck a work zone worker in January, 2017, when his Jeep entered an area where traffic flow had been reduced to one lane. The causes of the crash seemed to be excessive speed and failing to obey traffic direction. The highway worker, unfortunately, was pronounced dead at the scene. The crash is being investigated.
To help with speeding problems, Maryland does have a program called SafeZones that employs Automated Speed Enforcement (ASE). Since the program went into effect during 2009, the number of vehicles traveling 12 miles per hour or more above a work zone’s speed limit has decreased by 85 percent. As of the fall of 2015, less than 1 driver out of 100 was receiving a ticket for speeding using ASE, as opposed to 7 out of every 100 drivers before SafeZones began. SafeZones and ASE are considered highly accurate. However, only highway construction work zones employ SafeZones.
Suggestions for Keeping Everyone Alive
Want to do your part? We have some ideas for how you can keep yourself, your passengers, and work zone workers safe and sound:
- Realize that the unexpected is likely to happen in work zones, and be prepared for it.
- Obey the posted speed limits and other signs. If road conditions are poor, travel even more cautiously.
- To change lanes, try “Take 10.” This means using your turn signal to merge for at least three seconds before you start to change lanes, then allowing yourself at least seven seconds for the actual merge. Use your mirrors!
- Don’t tailgate.
- Obey the flagger, if one is working.
- Expect delays, be patient, and keep your temper.
One final sobering comment: In a released statement, Maryland State Highway Administrator Gregory C. Johnson, P.E., said of the Pasadena crash, “This is an unfortunate reminder of how dangerous highway work can be, particularly when workers’ only protection is a hardhat and reflective vest. While this crash remains under investigation, it is critical to remind motorists of the paramount role they have in safeguarding the lives of our workers. Drivers need to slow down and remain alert in work zones – work zone safety is in your hands.”
We’re listening. How can we help?
At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we have devoted our practice to defending the rights of personal injury victims. We know how traumatic a serious car accident can be for both the injured person and for his or her family. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in any kind of vehicular accident, you may be entitled to various kinds of financial compensation, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an accident, you should not delay. Contact Steve today for a free initial consultation by calling (410) 625-4878, or use our online form.