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Injured Worker Highlights Need for Motorists to Drive Safely in Work Zones

National Work Zone Awareness Week is April 8-12, 2019

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) today marked National Work Zone Awareness Week at an event which highlighted the story of a RIDOT worker injured in a crash this winter. Joe Molis, who is still recuperating, was in his work truck when a car slammed into it injuring him severely. The driver was later charged with driving under the influence. "We hear countless stories of people speeding through work zones, driving impaired, distracted or in some other reckless manner without regard for the safety of others," RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. said. "Unfortunately for Joe, this wasn't just another near miss."

Nationally each year, more than 700 people die in work zone-related accidents and more than 25,000 injuries are reported. A work zone crash occurs every 5.4 minutes and each week there are 12 work zone crashes that involved at least one death. A large majority of those killed, about 85 percent, are not the workers on the road, but the driver or occupant of the vehicle involved in the crash. In Rhode Island there were 22 work zone injuries in 2018.

RIDOT today joined with the Rhode Island State Police, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, AAA Northeast, and representatives of organized labor across Rhode Island in front of RIDOT's headquarters building in Providence to share a common message, "Drive carefully and protect those working on our roads and bridges." Today's event was one of many being held across the country in coordination with National Work Zone Awareness Week, which is April 8-12, 2019.

Molis, who could not attend the event because of his injuries, said he's been on dozens of work sites as traffic zooms past very close, and at full speed. He thought if he ever was in a work zone crash, it would be along the highway. He never thought it would occur on a road where the speed limit is only 25 mph. "People need to open their eyes, pay attention and slow down. It's really no more than a few moments, a second or two off your trip, to slow down in a work zone," he said. "Everybody out there has a family. Everybody deserves to get home safely."

"When you see those flashing lights, those work ahead signs, your immediate reaction should be caution. Those are real human beings working on the road," Alviti added. "At that point it's your job to protect them. Back off the accelerator; move over if possible. You could save a life."

"Work zones play a key role in maintaining and upgrading our nation's roadways. Unfortunately, daily changes in traffic patterns, narrowed rights-of-way, and other construction activities often create a combination of factors resulting in crashes, injuries, and fatalities. These crashes also cause excessive delays, especially given the constrained driving environment," said Carlos Machado, Division Administrator for FHWA Rhode Island. "Each year, National Work Zone Awareness Week brings attention to these safety, mobility, and constructability issues. The key message is that, as a driver, you must use extra caution in work zones to keep yourself and others safe. In short: Drive like you work here." In 2008, Rhode Island passed the "move over" law, which requires drivers to move over a lane when approaching a first responder stopped on the road. In 2014, the law was expanded to include construction and highway maintenance workers. Even if drivers can't change lanes when approaching workers or first responders, the law requires them to slow down and leave as much space as possible between their vehicle and the stopped vehicles.

"Despite all the flashing lights - all the warning signs and traffic cones at work zones - some motorists still fail to slow down, still fail to move over," said Colonel James Manni, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety. "That's why we have so many tragic crashes at work sites -- all because someone drove too fast, too close, too distracted or while impaired. As a result, they crash into people who are out there working on our roads, just trying to do their jobs."

"Safety in work zones won't happen by itself. As we provide properly trained and skilled workers, we must rely on the motorists to be equally trained and skilled as they navigate the state's roadways," said Raymond C. Coia, Administrator, New England Laborers' Health and Safety Fund. "It is through this team approach that we share a commitment to the safety of the construction workers and stand together with this initiative."

"This year's National Work Zone Safety theme - 'Drive Like You Work Here' - truly hits home for those of us in the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council because most of our union workforce does," said Michael F. Sabitoni, President of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council and Business Manager and Secretary-Treasurer of the Rhode Island Laborers' District Council. "Every day our hardworking men and women risk their lives, working within inches of passing traffic, alongside heavy construction equipment to keep America moving. That is why we are urging motorists to slow down, pay close attention to road signs, speed warnings, orange cones and flaggers. We appreciate you driving safely and cautiously. Lives depend on it - including your own."

"We realize that drivers can get frustrated by traffic congestion and delays caused by roadway construction, but the men and women working on these projects are there to improve our driving conditions and make our roadways safer," said Diana Imondi, Public Affairs & Traffic Safety Programs Manager for AAA Northeast. "They deserve our respect, patience, and our full attention as we pass through work zones."

RIDOT makes every effort to alert the public about planned work zones for construction and maintenance activities and posts them on its website at Additional information may be found on RIDOT's Twitter and Facebook sites. Weekly traffic forecasts also are sent to all Rhode Island media and traffic reporting services and are published each Saturday in the Providence Journal.

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  • Department or agency: Department of Transportation
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  • Release date: 04-09-2019

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