This week is National Work Zone Awareness Week and MDOT, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, and safety experts met to discuss the importance of attentive driving and work zone safety.

“Education, education, education that should always be first,” Miosha Construction Division Director Lawrence Hidalgo Jr. said.

That is what National Work Zone Awareness Week is all about. On Tuesday, April 18, officials and safety experts gathered to speak about worker and motorist safety and the issues we all encounter in work zones.

“Everyone must understand what their part is in contributing to making our work zones safer. We need to design and deploy work zones that make sense for all the various road and bridge projects we have throughout the state. But most importantly we need drivers to obey the work zone speed limits,” Atssa Chapter board member Brian Sarkella said.

According to a report by the Office of Highway Safety Planning, in 2021, there were 5,814 work zone crashes, and 19 of those were fatal.

“That’s just way too many,” Hidalgo said.

Experts point to speeding and distracted driving as the reason for those high numbers. More work zone crashes occur in the daytime compared to night.

“All of your work that you do means so much, especially to the families of the construction workers,” local resident Emily Hause said.

Hause has seen firsthand the heartbreak caused from the accidents. Her father Barry Hause died in 2019 after being struck by a car while on the job.

“So, this was actually his second shift of the day as I’m sure some of you have experienced before, especially in this field,” Hause said.

Gilchrist said no other family should have to experience this.

“I believe that all those deaths are preventable. If everyone is mindful, everyone’s careful, if you reduce your speed, if you minimize being distracted and stay focused on the road, people can survive, so these workers will certainly be able to go home with their families just like all of us do,” Gilchrist said.

On Wednesday, April 19, you can show your support by wearing orange for Go Orange Wednesday to create awareness for work zone crews across the country.

This article originally appeared in WNEM. For more, click here