Agency urges drivers to slow down, pay attention in work zones

Washington State Department of Transportation held a ceremony Wednesday to remember the 60 Washington workers lost on the job since 1950, honor workers injured on the job and remind drivers to be aware in work zones. The vast majority who died were working in marked roadway work zones.

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib spoke at the annual Worker Memorial ceremony, which included families of fallen workers, WSDOT staff, Washington State Patrol, state officials and industry partners. This week marks National Work Zone Awareness Week.

A demolished truck sits on display at the Capital Campus Wednesday to remind Washington drivers to slow down. Each cone represents a Washington road worker lost on the job. (Office of The Governor photo)

“On behalf of Gov. Inslee and the people of Washington, I’d like to express our solemn gratitude to those Washington State Department of Transportation workers who have been injured or killed on the job,” Habib said. “The families who have lost loved ones have our condolences, our appreciation and our love.”

Road crews work while traffic speeds by mere feet or even inches from their work area. The top three reasons for work zone collisions during 2019 was distracted driving, following too closely and excessive speed. Washington averages 768 roadway work zone injuries a year.

Inslee supports WSDOT’s efforts and encourages drivers to slow down and take caution.

“You can make simple changes in your driving habits and save a life,” Inslee said. “This is something each and every one of us can do behind the wheel. I extend a big thank you to what our road crews do for Washington.”

(Graphic courtesy of WSDOT)

Kris Rietmann, WSDOT communications director, said even though most work zone crashes are easily preventable, it’s hard to find a crew that hasn’t experienced an injury or numerous close calls. During 2018, 11 fatal crashes occurred and 1,498 people reported collisions either in a work zone or in a related traffic back-up.

“Employees in work zones are husbands, fathers, brothers, wives, mothers, sisters, children and friends — and they all deserve to go home safe at the end of their shift,” Rietmann said. “Our workers have had to literally run for their lives or jump over guardrails to avoid injuries or even death.”

A closeup of the truck that got hit by a semitruck in a work zone. (Office of the Governor photo)

WSDOT set up a safety display on the Capital Campus that shows a demolished truck that got hit by a semitruck in a work zone this past March. No one died but the truck serves as a grim reminder of the dangers that road crews face.

WSDOT asks drivers in work zones to:

  • Slow down — Drive the posted speeds because they exist for your safety.
  • Be kind — Our workers are helping to keep you safe and improve the roadways.
  • Pay attention — Look out for the workers directing you through traffic and pay attention to how you can safely navigate surrounding traffic.
  • Stay calm — Drivers need to expect delays and leave early or take an alternate route, if possible. Remember, no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone’s life.