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Our Opinion: Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road

Our Opinion: Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road

March 29th, 2017 by News Tribune in Opinion

Driver inattention was the No. 1 cause of work-zone crashes last year.

That's a key fact during next week's National Work Zone Awareness Week, which has the theme: "Work Zone Safety is in Your Hands."

The construction season is ramping up as the weather warms, and road work is becoming more noticeable on the state's 34,000 miles of state roads and bridges.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is reminding people that different construction zones have different looks, depending on whether workers are overlaying, striping, patching, mowing, etc.

Using a phone or other gadget — or being distracted in any way, for that matter — is never a good idea if you're driving. But it's especially important to look out for the different kind of work zones.

When you come across a work zone of any type, slow down and focus solely on driving. In the five seconds you take to read a text message you and your vehicle can travel across a football field. If you're distracted in any way, you wouldn't have time to quickly react, if needed.

"You are driving two tons of steel. It's hard to do more than one thing at a time so focus on the road," MoDOT Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger said in a news release. "Put your phone down and make work zones no phone zones."

Also, remember that state law requires motorists to slow down and change lanes when approaching MoDOT vehicles or law enforcement and emergency vehicles with lights flashing.

MoDOT offered these statistics:

Between 2010 and 2016, 37 people were killed in work zone crashes on state system routes and an additional six on the local system, for a total of 43 fatalities.

Between 2010 and 2016, 2,383 people were injured in Missouri work zones on state system routes and an additional 784 on the local system, for a total of 3,167 injuries.

Since 2000, 18 MoDOT employees have been killed in the line of duty.

The best defense in a work zone crash, or any crash, is a seat belt. In 2016, 61 percent of vehicle occupant fatalities were not wearing a seat belt.

Workers for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and other agencies are doing their part to make our roads safe to drive on. Return the favor by doing your part to ensure their safety.