The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is observing National Work Zone Awareness Week April 9-13 to encourage safe driving through highway work zones.

The week is an annual spring campaign to coincide with the start of road construction season. MnDOT officially kicked off the construction season April 4, although many construction projects started earlier.

The theme for the week is “Work Zone Safety is Everybody’s Responsibility,” reinforcing the message that motorists and construction and maintenance workers should use extra caution in work zones.

More than 250 active work zones are scheduled throughout the state this construction season. A work zone is defined as any area where highway construction, maintenance or utility work is being done.

Work zones are identified by warning signs, signals, barriers, pavement markings and flaggers.

Each year in the U.S., a work zone crash occurs once every 5.4 minutes. Every day, 70 work zone crashes occur that result in at least one injury. 

Every week, 12 work zone crashes occur that result in at least one fatality.

In Minnesota in the past four years, an average of seven people died in work zone crashes, and more than 1,700 fatal or serious injury crashes occurred each year.

“Drivers and passengers are more likely to be killed in work zones than workers, but maintenance and construction crew workers have also lost their lives, been injured or had close calls,” said Jay Hietpas, Office of Traffic, Safety and Technology director. “Rear-end crashes are the most common type of work zone crash. Most of these crashes occur because of driver inattention and speeding, both behaviors we can change.”

Hietpas said MnDOT works to alert motorists in work zones and sets speeds that are safe for navigating through it. He said when entering work zones, motorists should obey the posted speed limits, pay attention to signs and flaggers, be patient and not drive distracted.

“These work zones exist because we’re making roads better and safer. We’re asking that people look for the work zones, slow down and put down their cell phones and other distractions,” Hietpas said. “The Web site is a good resource to check for road closures, detours and traffic incidents.”

The National Work Zone Awareness Week observance is in cooperation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Federal Highway Administration and the American Traffic Safety Services Foundation.

Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Transportation