TDOT Aims to Improve Work Zone Safety and Drivers Can Help
May 14th, 2018 by Attorney John Colvin
In roadway work zones, flaggers help control the flow of traffic. These Tennessee Department of Transportation employees are the people who hold the “Stop/Slow” sign. Last year, a driver struck a flagger in Fayette County. TDOT wants to prevent that from happening to any other transportation workers, so it’s trying to improve worker visibility.
In April, TDOT debuted new Stop/Slow signs that include flashing LED panels. These signs, in theory, should be easier to see, but only if drivers are paying attention.
Distracted Drivers a Danger to Workers
During 2018’s National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 9-13), the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA) launched a campaign called “WatchForUs,” to educate the public about the dangers road workers face on the job. The primary focus of the campaign was to get drivers to understand how distraction could have deadly consequences in work zones.
NAPA produced a short fiction film for the campaign that illustrates how a work zone accident can affect a family. The film also includes real testimonials from workers whose colleagues were injured or killed in work zone crashes.
Even though it’s illegal to speed through a work zone, and to text while driving, some people regularly commit both of those offenses. With workers so close to the travel lanes – sometimes inches away from vehicles – a moment of distraction could injure or kill workers. Drivers should be paying attention when approaching or driving within work zones.
Rates of Worker Fatalities
From 2003 through 2015, 1,571 workers in the United States died in roadside work zone accidents. That’s about 10 fatalities per month. Tennessee ranked fifth on the list of states with the most roadside worker fatalities – 62 workers were killed between 2003 and 2015.
The Impact of Work Zone Deaths
When a driver strikes and kills a worker, that news makes headlines. But the story that most people never learn about is how that death affects others. That worker may have had a family, children, and a vast network of friends – all people whose lives are forever changed, because of one irresponsible driver.
TDOT is taking action to protect its workers, and, hopefully, the new signs will put an end to transportation worker injuries and deaths on the job. But drivers have to do their part, too. Speeding and driving while distracted create imminent threats not only for transportation workers, but also for other motorists in work zones.