Today, employees of Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) District Six in northwest Georgia will pay tribute with a minute of silence to fallen GDOT employees who have died in work zone incident—60 since record-keeping began in 1973.
In January, Georgia DOT’s Carey Ellerbee of GDOT District 3 in West Central Georgia died in the line of duty as he returned to headquarters after clearing snow and ice off roads in Atlanta. Then, in February, Lamar Ragland, with contractor C.W. Matthews, died after being hit by a motorist in a work zone.
“Most of these incidents are preventable so it is essential to use extra caution when driving or working in a work zone,” GDOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry said. “There are real dangers for workers and motorists in work zones. In fact, most victims in work zone crashes are drivers or their passengers.”
Each spring Georgia DOT and departments of transportation across the country observe National Work Zone Awareness Week. This year’s theme, Work Zone Safety is Everybody’s Responsibility, calls attention to the dangers in roadway work zones. It reminds motorists that how they drive in work zones can make the difference between life and death—not only for our workers, but also for drivers and their passengers. It also reminds workers that they must always be cautious as they work in a work zone.
Work zone safety awareness events will continue throughout this week with the focal message for GDOT employees providing guidelines on how workers can protect themselves in a work zone and the need for them to consistently follow the safety rules for their job.
For example, flaggers must be clearly visible to motorists and the flagger must identify an escape route in case an errant vehicle enters the work zone. Safety musts also include wearing high visibility garments, watching for blind spots when moving equipment, not turning your back on traffic and never assuming that equipment operators or motorists outside the work zone have spotted you and will stop.
“Our Georgia DOT workers in roadway work zones are moms and dads, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, and spouses and friends. We want to make sure they go home safely each and every day,” District Engineer DeWayne Comer said. “Dangers for workers in work zones come not only from drivers, but also from co-workers. I ask you to always think safety and be aware of your surroundings.”
This year’s theme—Work Zone Safety: Everybody’s Responsibility—urges motorists to be vigilant while driving in work zones, passengers to buckle up and act responsibly and workers to always think safety first.
Fatal work zone crashes in Georgia have more than doubled in the last few years, from 23 fatalities in 2014 to 55 fatalities in 2017, a 58 percent increase. Drivers or passengers represent 88 percent of these deaths.
The main causes for fatal work zone crashes are roadway departure and rear end collisions, often caused by distraction, driving too fast for conditions or driver impairment. “Everyone in a work zone is at risk. By working together we can reduce work zone injuries and fatalities,” McMurry said. “GDOT is committed to keeping Georgians safe, and we need that same commitment from the public. Our goal is to raise awareness about preventing these tragedies.”
GDOT offers a few important reminders about work zone safety:
Roadway work zones are not only for construction. They are also for maintenance crews, HERO and CHAMP operators, law enforcement, first responders, tow trucks and utility service vehicles.
Roadway work zones aren’t always stationary. Slow-moving work zones conduct maintenance like litter pickup, mowing and sweeping, and may stop intermittently.
As you approach a work zone, slow down, pay attention and watch for workers. Don’t speed or tailgate. Obey flaggers. And expect the unexpected.
Georgia’s Move Over Law (the Spencer Pass Law) requires drivers to move over one lane if possible when approaching stationary highway maintenance and construction workers, HERO and CHAMP operators, law enforcement or emergency vehicles, firefighters, paramedics, tow truck drivers and utility service vehicles in the roadway or on the shoulder and displaying flashing emergency lights. If traffic is too heavy to move over safely, slow down below the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop.
Whenever and wherever you drive, always “Drive Alert, Arrive Alive.” That means buckle up; stay off the phone and no texting; drive alert; and do not drive too fast for conditions. An average of four people die every single day on Georgia’s roadways. The main culprit is driver behavior.
Work zone safety is everybody’s responsibility. What do GDOT employees say about work zone safety? See our video and more at www.dot.ga.gov/WZS.
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