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Thursday, April 14

What is National Work Zone Awareness Week?

It seems like literally everything has an awareness week. Or at least a day.

OK, maybe not literally. More like virtually. Either way, there are a lot of awareness days, weeks and months.

This week, for instance, has been National Workzone Awareness Week. If you happen to see any of us around TxDOT, you'll find us wearing (probably) a little orange ribbon on our lapel. Because these causes all seem to use a colored ribbon, and because some even share the same color, you might ask us what the orange ribbon is all about.

Well, we're glad you asked.

Orange was picked by the Federal Highway Administration, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and American Traffic Safety Services Association because of the use of orange in road work zones. Those three got together back in the 1990s (was that really THAT long ago?) to raise awareness of the need to be more careful when driving through work zones.

After all, those work zones are our office - and our folks would love to get home at the end of each work day. They have families waiting for them, as most folks do. We hear it about police officers all the time, but for everyone who leaves home to go to work the number-one job is to return home every evening (or at the end of each shift).
But the whole reason we take part in this National Work Zone Awareness Week isn't just because we want to get home. It's because we want you to get home. After all our top priority is safety, and the well-being and safety and quality of life for the traveling public are of the utmost concern to the Texas Department of Transportation.

So here are a few facts to consider:
  • As many as 2,500 work zones can be active on Texas' 80,000 miles of highways at a given moment
  • Work zone fines can double and reach as much as $2,000; also, work zone violations cannot be waived by pleading "no contest" and taking a drivers' safety course
  • State-wide we saw a 13 percent increase in work-zone crashes over 2014
  • Last year nearly 140 people were killed in work-zone crashes
  • 81 percent of work zone fatalities are the motorists themselves; not workers
That last statistic bears repeating: 81 percent of work zone fatalities are the motorists themselves. Typically these motorists are speeding and distracted.

So much for state-wide stats. What about here, at home? Well, last year we had 2,492 work-zone collisions. 62 people were seriously hurt, and 11 lost their lives. Each of the 11 killed were motorists.
Here's the point: Being safe in a work zone isn't only about our safety (though that's certainly a huge part of it); it's about your safety as well. Work zones are constantly changing because our crews are working hard to improve your highway system. Some projects bring changes on a regular basis (which is why this blog exists - to provide you that information).

While we do everything we can to maintain the safety, ultimately everyone has a role to play in keeping our work zones safe. We're asking everyone to be rid of distraction - which means to put the dang phone away and just drive - and slow down a bit when headed into a work zone. The life you save, after all, just might be your own.