Orange barrels are appearing on highways as construction season returns with warmer weather.
Waupaca County Highway Commissioner Casey Beyersdorf urges people to drive carefully in highway work zones.
“Road workers are just like anyone else. They want to do a good job and make it home to their families at night,” Beyersdorf said. “We ask that everyone take extra time and stay alert on the roads.”
There were more than 2,800 work zone crashes throughout the state in 2016, according to preliminary state figures.
Work zone crashes in Wisconsin last year caused 1,110 injuries and nine deaths.
In Wisconsin, work zones include major highway construction and rehabilitation, maintenance, emergency response and utility work – any time in which there are flashing lights, signs, barrels or workers on the road.
National Work Zone Awareness Week takes place April 3 through 7. The theme is “Work Zone Safety is in Your Hands.”
Wednesday, April 5, is “Go Orange Day,” in which people are asked to wear something orange in support of highway safety.
Work Zone Awareness Week is sponsored by federal, state and local transportation officials to draw attention to the safety needs of road workers during construction season.
Generally, crashes occur when drivers speed through a work zone, do not pay attention to changing road conditions, run into other vehicles or highway equipment or drive off the road completely.
“Things happen very fast in work zones, even when the speed limit is reduced,” Beyersdorf said. “It’s important to eliminate distractions, slow down and avoid tailgating.”
Drivers are reminded that a new law took effect in October 2016 making it illegal to talk on a cellphone while driving through a work zone. Violators face fines of up to $40 on first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses, plus costs.
While typical construction work zones are prevalent throughout the county and state, there are also significant numbers of maintenance operations that may be short-term or moving operations.
Drivers are reminded of the state’s, “Move Over, Slow Down” law, which requires drivers to shift lanes or slow down in order to provide a safety buffer 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.