Rhode Island records second straight year with no work zone fatalities
There are fewer vehicles on our roads today but the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) still has 300 maintenance workers out there and 183 bridges under construction in 56 projects in full operation. RIDOT asks motorists to remember that despite the coronavirus crisis, men and women are at work in our work zones and they are at risk. This is National Work Zone Awareness week. RIDOT is asking drivers to do their part to help keep workers safe – obey all signage, reduce your speed and drive carefully in work zones.
Nationally each year, more than 750 people die in work zone-related accidents and more than 25,000 injuries are reported. Rhode Island drivers, the RIDOT safety team, and our contractors and their labor force have done a phenomenal job working together. There have been zero work zone deaths during the last two consecutive years in Rhode Island despite the record number of roadway and bridge repair projects underway as a result of Governor Raimondo's RhodeWorks program.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has reduced traffic volumes by 50 percent, the concern for worker safety remains. With highways less congested drivers are tempted to drive faster and even with fewer cars on the road, some DOTs across the country are seeing traffic fatalities at a higher level than usual. Less traffic is not a license to speed. During the last six weeks in Rhode Island with lower traffic volumes we have had seven traffic fatalities – the same number as for the past five-year average.
"Each year we face the threat of workers being injured or killed by drivers crashing into work zones. Rhode Islanders are certainly doing a great job of saving lives in the last two years and I sincerely hope they will continue their good record. Our construction workers are taking a chance every day when they step into their jobsite. Please don't make it any more risky," RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. said. "All of our workers deserve to go home safely after a day on the job literally risking their lives to improve our roads and bridges."
Nationally, a work zone crash occurs every 5.4 minutes and each week there are 12 work zone crashes that involve at least one death. A large majority of those killed, about 85 percent, are not the workers on the road, but the driver or passengers of the vehicle involved in the crash. While there were no fatalities, there were 28 injuries reported in Rhode Island work zone crashes during 2019.
Safety is RIDOT's highest priority, and all work zones are established with careful attention to safety and in coordination with national standards and best practices. We plan the timing and duration of work zones to reduce the impact to traffic congestion and travel time. Additionally, we provide advanced alerts of all work requiring lane or road closures with postings on RIDOT's website at www.ridot.net/traveladvisories and real-time traffic incident information is available on RIDOT's Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/RIDOTNews.
RIDOT has also been advocating for enhanced safety laws in Rhode Island. 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. So, 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.
"Road construction projects necessitate a shared commitment to safety. Let us once again commit to reinforce the synergy between those who travel through work zones and those performing the work within these projects with the combined effect allowing the men and women working in these work zones being able to return home safely on a daily basis," said Raymond C. Coia, Administrator, New England Laborers' Health and Safety Fund. "It is a proven fact that safety works when people work together. All it takes is patience and cooperation."
"I am extremely proud of our hardworking RI Building & Construction tradesmen and women who lace them up every day during these most difficult times keeping our essential road, bridge and critical infrastructure projects on track despite the COVID-19 Pandemic," 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. "Union construction workers and flaggers remain steadfast and committed to the industry, their livelihood, and our communities - taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves and their fellow union brothers and sisters safe and protected. We urge all motorists to do the same."