Work Zone Traffic Safety – Worker Protection

As we head into warmer weather, roadway construction season will be in full force.  It seems like everywhere you drive today there are orange construction signs and construction barrels.  Workers struck by vehicles or mobile equipment account for the highest number of fatal work injuries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Workers such as emergency responders, utility, construction and others in areas where there are moving vehicles and traffic, are exposed to being struck by moving vehicles.  Work zones are used to move traffic in an approved direction and are typically identified by signs, cones, barrels and barriers.  Unfortunately, workers cannot modify the driving behaviors of the motorists.  There is an ever-increasing amount of distracted driving on our roadways today.  In an effort to raise awareness to work zone traffic safety, the State of Wisconsin has shifted their focus to the motorist.

On March 30, 2016, Wisconsin Act 308 was enacted.  Wisconsin has banned the use of handheld mobile phones in construction zones or utility zones, except to report an emergency.  The law comes in response to the deaths of three construction workers last year.  The prohibition does not apply to the use of a voice-operated or hands-free device if the person does not use his or her hands to operate the device, except to activate or deactivate a feature or function of the device.  Fines from $20 to $40 (first offense), increasing for repeat offenders from $50 to $100.  Even though the law doesn’t go into effect until October 1, 2016, it’s never too early to start practicing good safety habits and get the word out on this.

To help safeguard law enforcement officers, emergency responders, road maintenance workers and others who work on the side of highways, Wisconsin has a “Move Over or Slow Down Law”.  The law requires drivers to shift lanes or slow down in order to provide a “safety zone” for a squad car, ambulance, fire truck, tow truck, utility vehicle or highway maintenance vehicle that is stopped on the side of a road with its warning lights flashing.

Drivers have two options for creating a safety zone:

  • If the road has more than one directional lane, like the Interstate, and you can switch lanes safely, you must move over to vacate the lane closest to the law enforcement or other vehicle with its lights flashing.
  • If the road has a single directional lane, or you can’t safely move over, you must reduce your speed.

Failure of motorists to move over is one of the reasons that motor vehicle crashes kill more law enforcement officers on duty than any other cause.

The State of Wisconsin has produced an excellent video on this topic:

If you encounter our work zones, please keep the following tips in mind for your safety and the safety of all workers.

  • Drive the posted work-zone speed limit.
  • Stay alert and pay close attention to signs and flaggers.
  • Maintain a safe distance around vehicles. Don’t tailgate.
  • Use four-way flashers when stopped or traveling slowly.
  • Avoid distractions and give your full attention to the road.
  • Always buckle up.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Be patient.