BARRON COUNTY -- Barron County Highway Commissioner Mark Servi urges people to drive carefully in highway work zones throughout the 2022 construction and maintenance season.
“Buckle up, phone down – every trip every time,” Servi said. “Highway workers work very hard on doing great work for their communities, and just like you they want to make it home at night to their families.”
Over the past five years, there have been more than 15,000 crashes in Wisconsin work zones causing 71 deaths and more than 5,800 injuries.
In Wisconsin, work zones include major highway construction and rehabilitation, maintenance, emergency response, utility work, municipal projects and more – any time in which there are flashing lights, signs, barrels or workers on the road.
National Work Zone Awareness Week takes place April 11 through 15. This year’s theme is “work zones are a sign to slow down.”
Wednesday, April 13, is “Go Orange Day,” in which people are asked to wear something orange in support of highway safety. Social media pictures and posts are welcome using the #OrangeForSafety hashtag, but please always refrain from using electronics while driving.
Work Zone Safety Awareness Week is sponsored by federal, state and local transportation officials to draw attention to the safety needs of road workers during construction season. Generally, crashes occur when drivers speed through a work zone, do not pay attention to changing road conditions, run into other vehicles or highway equipment or drive off the road completely.
“We ask everyone on the road to eliminate distractions and be mindful of speed,” Servi said. “Even in areas with reduced speed limits, things can happen in an instant. Always expect the unexpected.”
While typical construction work zones are prevalent throughout the county and state, there are also significant numbers of maintenance operations that may be short-term or moving operations. Drivers are reminded of the state’s, Move Over Law, which requires drivers to shift lanes or slow down to provide a safety buffer for a squad car, ambulance, fire truck, tow truck, utility vehicle, or highway maintenance vehicle that is stopped on the side of a road with its warning lights flashing.
In addition, emergency or work zone areas are protected by laws that aim to keep workers safe. Fines double in construction zones and cell phone use is banned. A new state law took effect in December 2021 that expands these protections to areas surrounding emergency response vehicles with flashing lights.
Before traveling, drivers are encouraged to check 511 Wisconsin (511wi.gov and @511WI on Twitter) or use the 511 Wisconsin smartphone app for updates on road conditions and traffic flow.
Giving undivided attention to the road:
- Don’t fool around. Eliminate distractions like eating, drinking, talking on the phone, or fiddling with electronic devices.
- Expect the unexpected. Speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people and vehicles may be working on or near the road.
- Slow down. A car traveling 60 mph travels 88 feet per second, and the faster you go the longer it takes to stop.
- Give yourself room. Rear-end collisions are the most common work zone crashes, so don’t tailgate.
- Allow about three seconds of braking distance. Look for signs. Orange, diamond-shaped signs usually give you ample warning of lane closings, construction areas, and flaggers and other workers ahead.
- Be patient. If you don’t see workers, that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Observe the signs until you see one that says you’ve left the work zone.
- Plan ahead. Leave early or map out an alternate route. Find the latest road conditions and work zone news at 511 Wisconsin.
- Follow the law. Slow down and move over, if possible, when you see flashing lights.
- Consider turning off the phone until you reach your destination.
- During a long drive, consider leaving a voice mail explaining how long you’ll be unavailable.
- If you have to make a call, find a secure place to pull over and stop, such as a wayside or a gas station.
Learn more here.