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Seeing Orange

April 14, 2010

April 19th marks the beginning of National Work Zone Awareness Week. The goal of the public awareness campaign is to remind drivers how they can keep everyone in a highway work zone safe--including themselves.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), 720 workers and motorists were killed in highway work zones and more than 40,000 were injured in 2008. Eighty-five percent of those killed in work zones are drivers or their passengers.

One of the problems, explains John M. Sullivan, assistant research scientist in UMTRI's Human Factors Group, is that traffic around work zones can be unpredictable.

"In particular, lane closures can result in varying length queues of slow-moving traffic upstream from the merge point. The location where traffic changes from moving at posted speeds to a slower speed is very difficult to predict. It can change very quickly and take motorists by surprise," said Sullivan. "People may think they know traffic conditions based on prior experience, but traffic conditions around work zones are often not very stable."

His advice? Look ahead, pay attention, slow down if you are confused, and observe the recommended speed limit. The best way motorists can protect themselves--and workers--is to understand what's happening ahead.

National Work Zone Awareness Week is held each year in April to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety and mobility issues in work zones.

The public awareness campaign was created in 1999 when the FHWA, American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) signed a Memorandum of Agreement pledging to increase public awareness of work zone safety issues through a national media campaign.

National Work Zone Awareness Week begins with a kickoff event in New York City on Monday, April 19. The theme for this year is "Work Zones Need Your Undivided Attention."

For more information, see Federal Highway Administration

Also see The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse