Work zone safety week reminds drivers of construction hazards

Signs indicated an active highway construction zone ahead. Traffic slowed to accommodate construction workers and equipment. Nothing prepared motorists and workers for what happened next on a rural New York road.

In the blink of an eye, a tractor-trailer rear-ended a vehicle that had slowed for the paving project. Six people died in the chain reaction crash that also included an SUV and a New York Department of Transportation truck.

Highway construction zones are among the most dangerous workplaces in the country. To draw attention to the hazard, a highway district in Virginia introduced a modest public event 11 years ago. That humble beginning spread across the country, eventually leading to creation of the National Work Zone Awareness Week and a traveling work zone memorial display.

This year’s safety campaign, “Roadway Work Zone Safety: We’re All in This Together,” will be observed formally next week, April 15-21. Kickoff for the national event is Tuesday (April 16), at an urban construction project in Washington, D.C.

ITD joins transportation departments across the country in urging drivers to
slow down in highway construction zones and to obey traffic control measures for the safety of workers and other motorists. Statistics indicate motorists and their passengers are the most vulnerable to work zone crashes, injuries and deaths.

Although some highway construction in Idaho continued through the winter with only brief interruptions, other projects will increase as weather improves.

The best strategy for avoiding construction-related delays is to check the 511 Traveler Services website at before embarking on a trip. If your preferred route includes a construction project, plan accordingly. Leave earlier than you otherwise would, plan for delays and be prepared to use caution and patience.

“ITD’s highest priority is highway safety,” said chief engineer Tom Cole. “We want travelers to enjoy their trip and arrive safely at their destination. The best way to do that is to prepare in advance.”

In high-traffic areas, ITD attempts to schedule construction outside peak travel times. Construction is suspended on major holiday weekends (Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day), and in some cases, work is done at night.

“We do everything possible to keep people moving,” Cole added. “But drivers must do their part. Please, watch for work zones and slow down. Just as important, avoid activities that divert your attention away from the road, such as using a cell phone.

“Help us help you stay safe. We really are all in this together.”

For information about the work zone safety week, go to

For a work zone safety public service announcement on YouTobe, click here

Published 4-12-13