Missouri Department of Transportation Senior Maintenance Worker Justin Sundell recalls a time he was flagging vehicles through a work zone on Route 68 when he noticed a car that wasn’t slowing down. Sundell says the next thing he heard was the sound of squealing tires and locking brakes.
“It was really scary,” Sundell said. “The driver was looking at his phone the whole time.”
April 9-13 is National Work Zone Awareness Week and Sundell is speaking up in hopes of getting drivers to pay more attention in work zones, which will be cropping up throughout the state as warmer weather moves in.
“I’m begging you – when you are driving a motor vehicle, please buckle up and put your phone down,” Sundell said. “We all want to go home safe each and every night.”
Unfortunately, work zone crashes are on the rise nationwide. Sixteen people were killed in work zone crashes last year – two were workers. That is double the number killed in 2016, when eight people died in work zones. In fact, a work zone crash occurs every 5.4 minutes.
“We can’t lose sight of the really tragic significance of these statistics – these are family members, friends, coworkers and neighbors who didn’t make it home to their loved ones,” said MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna.
Added Len Toenjes, president of AGC of Missouri, “We’ve trained our workers on the latest safety protocols, and our job superintendents keep safety as a top priority, but we need the general public to slow down, buckle up and put their phones down. I can’t stress enough how important this is. When workers leave their homes in the morning, they want to return to their families that evening.”
With construction season underway, motorists will encounter work taking place on Missouri roadways through the fall. Some of the more impactful work zones will occur on Interstates 70, 44, 64, 55, 270 and on U.S. Route 65.
Here are some tips for navigating work zones safely:
· Observe warning signs and merge before reaching lane closures.
· Be aware of changing traffic conditions. Traffic could slow or stop unexpectedly, traffic lanes can merge and equipment and workers can enter the roadway.
· Be prepared to slow down. Driving too fast for the conditions is a major factor in work zone crashes.
To help make your travel safer, visit MoDOT’s Traveler Information map at www.traveler.modot.org/map and find out what work zones you’ll encounter before you go. Motorists can comment on the quality of MoDOT’s work zones with an online customer survey at http://www.modot.org/workzones/Comments.htm.