Fatalities in roadway work zones increased nearly 11% from 2020 to 2021, with deaths rising from 863 to 956, according to newly released federal data.
Drivers and passengers accounted for 778 of the 956 fatalities for 2021, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System FARS shows.
“The continuing increase in work zone fatalities drives home the importance of National Work Zone Awareness Week, which begins on Monday,” said ATSSA President & CEO Stacy Tetschner. “We encourage every driver to be vigilant as they approach work zones and travel through them. This time of year sees a surge in work zones on the nation’s roadways so it’s important for everyone to recognize they play a role in work zone safety and to work with us.”
Bureau of Labor Statistics information shows 108 roadway workers were killed on the job in 2021, a decrease of nine from the previous year.
“While we are pleased that 2021 saw fewer worker deaths than the year before, no death is acceptable,” Tetschner added. “Our goal is zero deaths on our roadways, both inside and outside of work zones.”
National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) runs from Monday, April 17 through Friday, April 21 with a special focus for each day.
Monday, April 17 – Work Zone Safety Training Day in which companies are encouraged to pause during the workday for safety demonstrations, discussions about safety policies and other prevention steps to protect people in work zones.
Tuesday, April 18 – National Kickoff Event hosted this year by the Missouri Department of Transportation MoDOT. The event will be livestreamed at 10 a.m. CT. In addition, private companies and departments of transportation across the country organize events in their locations.
Wednesday, April 19 – Go Orange Day when everyone is encouraged to wear orange to show support for work zone safety and the families of victims who have lost their lives in work zones. Photos can be posted on social media with #NWZAW and #Orange4Safety.
Thursday, April 20 – Social media storm in which organizations, companies, agencies and individuals are encouraged to share messages and use hashtags #NWZAW and #WorkZoneSafety on social media posts between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET.
Friday, April 21 – Moment of Silence during which everyone is encouraged to pause to remember the men, women and children who have lost their lives in work zone incidents.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) fact sheet offers the following tips for safely navigating roadway work zones.
Plan ahead. Use traveler information sources on websites, social media, and apps to check for active work zones along your route. If possible, avoid traveling through work zones; otherwise, allow yourself extra time to anticipate possible delays and travel safely.
Put down your phone. Workers are focused on doing their job to repair the roads; focus on your job to safely travel through the work zone by avoiding distractions.
Reduce your speed. Transportation agencies may reduce speed limits in work zones to make it safer for you to navigate narrow lanes and lane shifts while keeping workers safe. Speed was a contributing factor in 32 percent of 2021 fatal work zone crashes.
Look out for workers. There is not always a lot of space between the work area and travel lanes, so please be considerate and slow down when you see workers.
Be aware of pedestrians and bicyclists. Work zones often restrict where non-motorized road users can travel. In 2021, 173 people on foot and bicycles lost their lives in work zone crashes.
Give space to large vehicles. Narrow lanes and unexpected lane shifts can be challenging for large vehicles to navigate. Help them out by giving them extra space. In 2021, 33 percent of fatal work zone crashes involved commercial motor vehicles CMVs. Also, be on the lookout for large construction vehicles that may be entering and exiting the work area at slower speeds.
Stay alert. Work zones sometimes cause slowdowns in unexpected places, so be prepared for sudden stops. In 2021, 24 percent of all fatal work zone crashes involved rear-end collisions.