Inspired by the death of an Indiana traffic control flagger, Senators Mike Braun R-IN and Richard Blumenthal D-CT this week introduced a resolution to recognize National Work Zone Awareness Week, which takes place April 17-21.
Ben Fisher was struck and killed on July 26, 2019—the day after his 29th birthday—while working for a traffic control company on Indiana State Road 13, according to a statement from Braun’s office. The statement also notes the increase in work zone fatalities nationwide since 2006 and the goal of increasing awareness of the hazards of work zones for drivers, workers and pedestrians, and the value of training.
“Far too many road workers and emergency servicemen are injured and killed each year by automobile drivers. Ensuring the safety of these essential men and women is a no-brainer, and I’m excited to join Sen. Blumenthal to introduce legislation that raises awareness about making America’s roads less hazardous for everyone,” Braun said in announcing the resolution on Tuesday.
“Work zone awareness is critical for preventing the needless tragedies that plague our roadways. Road workers, first responders, pedestrians and bicyclists are too often injured or killed by reckless, irresponsible drivers,” Blumenthal said in his statement of support. “All drivers should heed laws–like those to slow down and move over–when approaching these areas. By promoting common sense measures and precautions, our resolution takes steps to protect everyone on our streets from being put in harm’s way. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort with Senator Braun.”
The resolution notes that 857 work zone fatalities occurred in 2020, the most recent year for which U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) statistics are available. Of that total, 680 were motor vehicle drivers or passengers and 170 were people on foot or bicycle. Fifty-one of the pedestrians were construction, utility or roadway workers. In addition, 44,240 people suffered injuries in work zone crashes in 2020, the resolution notes.
The resolution encourages individuals to practice work zone safety by:
Researching their routes ahead of time to avoid work zones, if possible;
Avoiding distractions while driving;
Obeying work zone flaggers and being aware of and obeying work zone signage regarding speed limits, lane changes and other instructions;
Slowing when entering work zones and being attentive to roadway workers;
Merging into open lanes as directed and slowing and moving over for first responders;
Maintaining a “space cushion” when driving behind other vehicles to avoid rear-end crashes; and
Providing towing and recovery professionals space to operate to clear crashes.
It also encourages infrastructure owners and operators to utilize work zone protections and technology including the Work Zone Data Exchange (WZDx).
Thirteen roadway safety groups endorsed the resolution including:
Benjamin J. W. Fisher Memorial Foundation
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)