Work zones on Missouri roads may be very different in location and duration, but approaching them with caution is a constant.
In connection with the national observance of Work Zone Awareness Week, Monday through Friday, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is spreading the word on safety.
Although motorists may become familiar with long-term lane closures for major construction on regularly traveled routes, "not all work zones look alike," said Beth Wright, MoDOT state maintenance engineer. "We remind motorists that work zones can be moving operations, such as striping, patching or mowing," she said. "They can also be short-term, temporary lane closures to make quick repairs or remove debris from the roadway."
Both vehicle occupants and road workers have been killed and injured in work zone accidents.
Between 2009 and 2013, 53 people were killed and 2,781 people were injured in Missouri work zones. That number includes eight people killed in work zones in 2013, compared with seven in 2012. In addition, since 2000, 16 MoDOT employees have been killed in the line of duty.
A focus of Work Zone Awareness Week is to encourage motorists to avoid factors contributing to work zone crashes. In 2013, the top five were identified as following too closely, improper lane use or changing lanes, inattention, driving too fast for conditions and failure to yield - in that order.
Safety officials also remind motorists that Missouri's "Move Over" law now applies to highway vehicles, in addition to emergency and law enforcement vehicles.
"The law is simple," said MoDOT Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger. "If you see flashing lights on the side of the road, move over to give workers and emergency personnel plenty of room to stay safe. If you can't move over on a crowded highway, you should slow down as you pass them. We want you and our workers to make it home safe every day."
Travelers may determine, and potentially avoid, work zones on their intended routes by consulting MoDOT's traveler information map at www.traveler.modot.org/map. Motorists can comment on the quality of MoDOT's work zones with an online customer survey at www.modot.org/workzones/comments.htm.
Road construction and work zones are springing up around the state. Be aware, be patient and drive carefully.