The Colorado State Patrol (CSP), the Colorado Department of Transportation and contractors annually team up to alert motorists about the driving dangers they can encounter in work zones during April as part of the "National Work Zone Awareness Week" campaign.
We often take for granted that most of us work in a safe, comfortable environment, however the CSP reminds you that we need to remember that there are mothers, fathers, friends and other members of our communities who are working in construction zones near vehicles speeding by carelessly and at excessive speeds.
It is just common sense to slow down for just a couple of minutes to ensure the safety of everyone in the work zone-including the motorists.
"We know that most crashes and resulting injuries and fatalities in work zones are caused by speeding, inattention and following too close," said Colonel Mark Trostel, retired Chief of the CSP. "When you enter a work zone it is extremely important to slow down and drive the posted speed limit, always keep a safe interval between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you, stay alert, be calm and expect the unexpected."
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation: 4 out of 5 work zone fatalities are motorists, 1 work zone fatality occurs nationwide every 7 hours (3 a day), and 1 work zone injury occurs nationwide every 15 minutes.
In 2004, (the most recent statistics available), 1,906 crashes occurred in Colorado work zones resulting in 768 injuries and 14 deaths. In 2003, there were 2,406 crashes in Colorado work zones resulting in 1,036 injuries and 11 deaths.
Since 1929, there have been 22 Colorado Department of Highways/Colorado Department of Transportation employees killed in work zones. Five of those fatalities have taken place in the last four years. The 22 fatalities does not include those from contractors.
In 2006, the Colorado State Patrol worked approximately 2,483 hours of overtime and made contact with 2,947 motorists. This effort resulted in 966 citations for Hazardous Violations, 323 citations for seatbelt violations, 274 citations for other offenses, 18 DUI arrests and six felony arrests.
"When a 3,000 pound vehicle runs into a concrete barrier in a work zone, the result is not pretty-and can be fatal," retired Colonel Trostel points out. "A common misperception is that it's the highway workers who are only at risk, when in fact, it's more likely that motorists will be injured or killed."
While the safety of workers is always a concern, national statistics indicate that four out of five people killed in highway work zones are drivers and passengers.
This trend is alarming but the answer is simple, says the CSP. We, as drivers, have the ability to reduce the chances of these tragedies occurring, as the majority of these traffic crashes are avoidable. There will be hundreds of work zones again on Colorado highways this coming summer. We all need to show a little patience and drive with extra care and focus in construction areas.
CDOT will continue its efforts to ensure work zones are as safe as possible. Sign age and work zone layouts are based on continuing safety research to ensure the least possible impact Double fines for speeding in work zones have and will continue to be strictly enforced. Additionally, worker education and the mandatory use of specialty protective equipment is now being required.