The return of warmer weather means that motorists can expect to see more construction vehicles and workers on Rhode Island roads and highways. It also signals the return of a national effort to remind people about the dangers of careless and distracted driving in work zones.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is participating in the 11th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week, which runs from April 19-23, 2010. The slogan for this year’s national public awareness campaign is “Work Zones Deserve Our Undivided Attention.” Distracted driving is a major concern in Rhode Island, as shown by passage last year of a new law prohibiting texting while driving.
“Each year we deliver the same message, the same words of caution, to motorists about driving carefully in work zones,” RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis said. “While we had no serious work zone crashes in Rhode Island in the past year, each year people are killed or severely injured in work-zone related accidents nationwide.”
Last year 700 people in the United States were killed in work-zone related accidents. About 85 percent of those killed are not the workers on the road but the driver or occupant of the car causing the crash. Additionally, more than 40,000 people nationwide are injured each year in work zone accidents.
Distractions are plenty. The use of electronic devices while driving – whether it be talking or texting on a cell phone, checking directions on a GPS unit, making selections on a portable music player, or even changing stations on the radio – all take a driver’s attention away from the road. Talking on a cell phone while driving, for example, can lead to delayed reaction times that are equivalent to those exhibited by persons driving while intoxicated. Bringing that level of distraction to a place where speeds are reduced, lanes are shifted or closed, and people are working very close to live traffic is a recipe for disaster.
“When approaching a work zone, an alarm should go off in your head that says ‘pay attention, something is different ahead,’” Lewis said. “Immediately redouble your efforts to the task of driving and driving safely. The lives of those working on the road, as well as yourself and your passengers are on the line.”
What’s at stake:
• Loss of life and serious injury – both for those working on the road and the driver and occupant. • Steep fines of at least $85 for speeding or texting while driving. All fines can be doubled in work zones. Additional fines may be levied in the case of an accident. • Financial loss from damage to your vehicle or other vehicles or property. • Legal action from wrongful death suits or personal injury lawsuits. • Time lost from work while recovering from injuries, appearing in court or attending to other errands or tasks related to the crash. • Lost wages, lost productivity, lost time with family and friends. • Long term pain or complications resulting from serious injuries.
What you can do:
• Slow down: Speeding is one of the major causes of work zone crashes. • Read the signs: Signage and flashing arrows are used to guide you and other drivers to move safely through the work zone. • Don’t engage in distracting activities: Dedicate your full attention to the roadway and avoid changing radio stations, texting or using a cell phone while driving in a work zone. • Merge as soon as possible: Don’t drive right up to the lane closure and then try merging in. • Expect delays: Leave early so you can reach your destination on time. • Be patient and stay calm: Remember that work zones are not established to personally inconvenience you.
RIDOT makes every effort to alert the public about planned work zones for construction and maintenance activities and posts them on its website at www.tmc.dot.ri.gov/traveladvisories.asp. Announcements regarding road closures are routinely posted on the Department’s social networking sites on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Blogger. Weekly traffic forecasts also are sent to all Rhode Island media and traffic reporting services and are published in the Providence Sunday Journal.
Motorists, however, need to be prepared for unplanned work zones as well. RIDOT responds to reports for potholes, debris in the roads, and other urgent matters that require immediate attention. RIDOT uses highway message boards, its Highway Advisory Radio system (1630 AM), and 511 to relay this type of information.
Contact: Charles St. Martin 401-222-1362 x4007