Work zones: "Drive Like You Work Here"
National Work Zone Awareness Week and Go Orange Day promote work zone safety
“Before he hit me, I heard some skidding. The tires locked up and it was ‘boom’,” Rick Robertson said, referring to a work zone crash. “What an impact. When it hit, it was a tremendous amount of force.”
Each year, hundreds of work zone fatalities occur annually in the United States. Robertson is a work zone crash survivor from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in 2017 there were 710 work zone fatal crashes and 799 fatalities, the majority of which were motorists, with 132 deaths accounting for roadway worker fatalities. Additionally, there were a total of 158,000 work zone crashes total in 2016—of which 42,000 were injury-involved crashes that resulted in 61,000 injuries.
The national averages and the lives affected are at the core of why National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) and Go Orange Day began. They’re also a big part of why the public awareness campaign has continued to grow and have increased participation across the country.
Stories like Robertson’s serve as important reminders of why ATSSA is heavily involved in promoting the awareness of work zones and the presence of roadway workers.
“ATSSA is proud to be one of the founding organizations of the National Work Zone Awareness Week event,” ATSSA President and CEO Roger Wentz said. “It was our goal, and remains to be to this day, to highlight the importance of using extra caution around work zones. These men and women risk their lives each day to ensure roadways remain safe for all users. We all need to work together to help spread the message: ‘Drive like you work here.’”
How it all began
In 1998, the VDOT first presented the idea to create a national campaign to ATSSA officials, who, in December of 1999, approached FHWA and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), “seeking their leadership as partners in launching the first National Work Zone Awareness Week. FHWA embraced this great opportunity to partner with other safety stakeholders to promote work zone safety,” said FHWA Transportation Specialist Martha Kapitanov.
A signed agreement established the first NWZAW later that same month. In addition to the formation of a nationwide program to promote work zone safety, the initial goals of that agreement were also established. The first national event for the campaign was held in 2000 in Springfield, Virginia.
Over the years more and more state agencies have held their own NWZAW events, and themes were eventually included in the campaign in 2004. An executive committee has continued to promote NWZAW prior to spring and the construction season to raise awareness of the increased presence of roadway work zones.
“Work zone safety affects everyone in and around the work zones. Each year most work zone fatalities – approximately 85 percent – are motorists and their occupants. The driver plays a key role in making work zones safer for everyone,” Kapitanov said. “If we can alert and educate drivers, we can reduce fatalities for workers, motorists and those riding along. National Work Zone Awareness Week will continue to be a focal point for FHWA, State DOTs, and others committed to the vision of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries on our nation's roadways."
National Work Zone Awareness Week 2019
This year, the 19th national kick-off event will be held in Washington, D.C. and will be hosted by the District Department of Transportation on April 9. This year's NWZAW theme is "Work Zones: Drive Like You Work Here.” Remember to wear orange on Go Orange Day on April 10. Use #orange4safety and #NWZAW in social media posts and don't forget to tag us: @ATSSAHQ on Twitter and @ATSSATraffic on Facebook. For more details about the NWZAW, visit NWZAW.org.