For the third year in a row, the Rhode Island State House will again glow orange as a reminder to motorists of the importance of driving carefully in work zones. AAA Southern New England and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) are partnering to illuminate the State House dome orange for the week of April 15-19, 2013 in recognition of National Work Zone Awareness Week.
Across the country, about 700 people die each year in work-zone related accidents and more than 40,000 injures are reported. About 85 percent of those killed are not the workers on the road, but the driver or occupant of the vehicle causing the crash.
National Work Zone Awareness Week is an annual campaign held at the start of construction season to encourage safe driving through highway construction sites. It is observed across the country by state, local and federal transportation officials in April, the start of highway construction season across most of the country.
"As we enter a new construction season, we encourage drivers to be more aware of roadwork and to be more attentive when encountering a work zone," said RIDOT Director Michael P. Lewis. "For their own safety and that of the men and women working at great risk to keep our roads and bridges in good condition, we remind motorists to go slow through work zones and obey all traffic signs."
The State House lighting is part of a "Go Orange" theme RIDOT is adopting for this week, and the general public is invited to participate by wearing orange pins or clothing, decorating their home or office with the color orange or taking other creative means to show support for the men and women working in construction sites across the State.
AAA and RIDOT have a strong relationship developing public awareness campaigns aimed at minimizing distracted driving, reducing drunk driving and encouraging people to buckle up. AAA has generously agreed to sponsor the cost of the orange lighting of Rhode Island's Capitol building in Providence.
"As a long-time supporter of Rhode Island's Slow Down -- Move Over bill, AAA Southern New England is pleased to join RIDOT in highlighting the importance of work zone safety," said Lloyd Albert, AAA's senior vice president of Public and Government Affairs. "As we begin a new construction season, the need for motorists to exercise extreme caution in work zones can't be overemphasized."
RIDOT and AAA offer the following suggestions for motorists as they encounter more construction vehicles and workers in the coming weeks:
• 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, especially the use of electronic devices: Talking or texting on a cell phone, checking directions on a GPS unit, or even changing radio stations take a driver's attention away from the road.
• 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 set up to inconvenience motorists. They are a necessary part of operations to improve the State's network of roads and bridges.
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.
Announcements regarding road closures are routinely posted on the Department's social networking sites on Twitter and Facebook. Weekly traffic forecasts also are sent to all Rhode Island media and traffic reporting services, and are published in Saturday edition of the Providence Journal.
Travel planning resources provided by AAA also highlight current work zones and are marked on the auto club's proprietary Triptik Travel Planner available at www.AAA.com.
RIDOT also performs intensive safety training throughout the year with classroom and hands-on training for RIDOT's field maintenance and construction personnel.
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. To report a road-related problem, contact RIDOT's Customer Service office at 401-222-2450 weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Contact: Charles St. Martin (401) 222-1362, Ext. 4007