As part of National Work Zone Awareness Week, which runs today to April 23, PennDOT reminds motorists to be cautious in work zones year-round.

"Last year, four highway workers and 19 motorists died in work-zone crashes in Pennsylvania – highlighting the sudden tragedy that can occur when motorists fail to slow down and stay alert for rapidly changing traffic conditions," said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. "The men and women who are dedicated to improving our roads and bridges should not have to risk life and limb simply because motorists are distracted or in a hurry."

According to PennDOT, work zone crashes and worker fatalities increased in 2009 from 2008. There were 1,513 crashes in which four workers and 19 motorists died last year, compared to 1,417 crashes and two fatalities in 2008.

As part of National Work Zone Awareness Week, PennDOT's traveling memorial will be on display in Harrisburg from Tuesday through Friday. The memorial consists of 78 posts topped by hard hats and draped in safety vests that represent each PennDOT employee who died in the line of duty since 1970.

To reduce the risk of work zone crashes, motorists must follow the posted speed limit and pay close attention to signs and flaggers. If signs instruct you to do so, drivers are required to turn on their headlights. Finally, motorists should avoid tailgating and use four-way flashers when stopped or traveling slowly.

"Although these tips may seem like common sense, highway workers continue to see speeding and distracted drivers passing through work zones, often just a few feet away," Biehler said.

Motorists caught driving 11 miles per hour, or more, above the posted speed limit in an active work zone, or who are involved in a crash in an active work zone and convicted for failing to drive at a safe speed, automatically lose their license for 15 days. Nearly 500 motorists had their license suspended for work zone violations last year.

In addition, fines for certain traffic violations, including speeding and driving under the influence, are doubled when they occur in active work zones.

Sean Brown

Safety Press Officer

PA Department of Transportation