CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It’s that time of the year again — construction season. The West Virginia Department of Transportation kicked off its Work Zone Safety campaign Wednesday. It’s aimed at reminding drivers how important it is to obey the rules of the road when they come across those orange construction barrels or cones.
Mike Clowser, the executive director of the Contractor’s Association of West Virginia, stressed you must keep your eyes on the road, slow down and minimize your distractions for the safety of workers and yourself.
“When you’re out in open traffic all it take is a split second and it’s over,” Clowser explained.
DOT Spokesperson Brent Walker says the statistics are startling when you look at work zone accidents.
“Over the last three years there were 1,326 crashes in work zones. Two years ago we had 6 deaths in work zones. Last year we had two. Yeah, it seems like it’s going down but that’s two too many,” said Walker.
Andy Estep is an equipment supervisor who’s worked on road crews for more than 7 years. He said he’s seen his fair share of work zone accidents. When they happen, he stressed, you only have a blink of an eye to react.
“You’re not expecting it to happen but you’re always aware because it can happen. When it does, your instincts just take off. You do what you have to do,” he explained.
In 20 percent of work zone fatalities, construction workers are killed. However, the other 80 percent result in the death of drivers.
Besides being against the law, using a cell phone in a work zone is dangerous and it’s just not worth it according to Clowser.
“There is not a phone call or a message or text that you couldn’t wait one minute or two minutes or five minutes or however long it takes to get through that construction zone!”
First Lt. Michael Baylous with the West Virginia State Police gave another incentive to focus on the road in a construction zone.
“Yellow and blue make green. When you see these yellow vests on these workers in these work zones and you don’t slow your vehicle down then the next thing you may see is the blue lights on our cruisers,” said Baylous. “When you see that, that’s where the green comes in. It’s going to be the court costs and fines that come with your irresponsible behavior.”
Walker said there are some simple tips to keep you and the workers safe. Call ahead or use the 511 app to find out the road conditions and work zones before you leave the house. Keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road when you’re in a construction zone. And always obey the posted speed limits in construction zones.
Construction season is already underway and will continue through early fall.