Our Voice: Work zones deserve our full attention while driving

Farm Forum

Normally at this time of year, we would be talking about things such as potholes, new street projects and road construction.

Thus, this is National Work Zone Awareness Week. Motorists are reminded to drive safely not only for the sake of South Dakota highway workers, but also for drivers themselves and their passengers.

“The South Dakota Department of Transportation wants to get the message out to the public that nearly 85 percent of those killed in work zones are drivers and their passengers,” said state transportation secretary Darin Bergquist. “The goal of (this week) is to remind drivers that work zone crashes are preventable, and by working together, we can save lives.”

Work zone crashes killed 576 people and injured an estimated 37,000 nationally in 2010. Many of those accidents could have been avoided by practicing proper safety and awareness measures.

“People don’t realize how dangerous road construction areas can be and how quickly something can go wrong,” Bergquist added. “In many cases, orange cones and barrels are the only buffers separating highway workers from traffic. We want motorists who are tempted to speed through work zones to think about the workers, themselves and their passengers so everyone will arrive home safely.”

Here are some safety tips when traveling through work zones:

Reduce speed before entering a work zone. Other motorists ahead of you who are speeding through a work zone doesn’t make it right for you to do the same.

Speeding fines are doubled in work zones.

Dedicate full attention to the road. Don’t use your time of reduced speed to perform distracting activities like adjusting the radio, making a phone call or to text. Somebody’s loved one is working in that area.

Be prepared to stop at anytime.

Expect the unexpected. Watch out for not only road workers in the area but also for construction equipment.

Maintain adequate and safe distances from workers and other vehicles.

Be patient. Remember, road crews are working to improve your future ride.

This is all good advice. Remember those tips when the construction season begins in earnest.

But for now as winter still has us in its grips, don’t crowd the plow.