Last year, 38 people died and more than 7,200 crashes occurred in highway work zones across North Carolina.
Speeding is the No. 1 contributing factor in work zone crashes. Another common reason is not paying attention behind the wheel. That’s why the N.C. Department of Transportation, the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program and the State Highway Patrol are urging motorists to slow down and not drive distracted while traveling through a construction or maintenance zone, whether or not workers are present in the highway.
At a work site along Interstate 95 in Johnston County, the three state agencies on Friday morning, April 6, kicked off their annual work zone safety campaign to coincide with the springtime increase of transportation projects around the state. Officials remind drivers to obey the posted speed limits, avoid distractions and watch for workers in work zones. Rear-end collisions are the most frequent type in work areas.
“Speed kills in a work zone, and so does not paying attention,” said Steve Kite, PE, the state work zone engineer for NCDOT. “Slow down. The life you are saving might be your own.”
To promote highway safety, Gov. Roy Cooper has proclaimed April as Work Zone Safety Awareness Month and April 9-13 as Work Zone Safety Week.
NCDOT also wants to keep its workers and contract crews safe. About 10 to 15 percent of fatalities are workers or others, such as pedestrians, who are not inside the vehicle that crashed.
“This is not just another road with orange barrels on it,” Ryan Beamer, PE, an NCDOT resident engineer based in Johnston County. “This is where men and women are working, and we want them to be able to see their loved ones at the end of the day.”
The speed limit is often lowered because of potentially hazardous conditions in a construction area. It takes just 49 seconds longer to travel through a 2-mile work zone at 45 mph than at 65 mph hour.
“Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous hazards on our highways, but sadly, many people don’t take it seriously,” said Debroah Leonard, PhD, the safety engineer for NCDOT’s Highway Division 4, which includes Johnston and some of its neighboring counties.
The safety campaign complements the NC Vision Zero initiative, which aims to reduce crashes, eliminate roadway deaths and encourage safer driving behavior. More information can be found at this NCDOT website, including driving safety tips.