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April 17-21 Is National Work Zone Awareness Week

Maine Turnpike Authority Logo FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 18, 2023
Erin Courtney
CONTACT: Dan Morin (MTA)

April 17-21 Is National Work Zone Awareness Week

You play a role in work zone safety. Work with us.

WEST GARDINER - National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is being observed from Monday, April 17th through Friday, April 21st, 2023. Since 2000, NWZAW has highlighted the deadly dangers of inattention at highway work areas. The theme of this year’s nationwide observance is, “You play a role in work zone safety. Work with us.”

Every year, Maine averages more than 500 crashes and two fatalities in work zones. In 2022, our state experienced 541 work zone crashes, resulting in 164 injuries and two deaths. While these numbers encompass all crashes that took place in areas designated as work zones, they represent incidents that occurred in proximity to areas where crews may be working near traffic. Historically, the leading causes of work zone crashes are drivers following too closely, being distracted, and failing to yield.

Today, the Maine Turnpike Authority, Maine Department of Transportation, Maine State Police, Associated General Contractors of Maine, and AAA Northern New England joined together in West Gardiner to highlight the importance of driving safely in work zones.

“Traffic volumes on the Maine Turnpike are back to pre-pandemic levels, and in some cases, they are higher than they were in 2019,” said Peter Merfeld, Chief Operations Office for the Maine Turnpike Authority. “The speed of drivers through our work zones is too high. Slowing down and remaining alert when driving through a work zone helps ensure that our crews and our contracting partners make it home safely at the end of each day.”

“Work zone safety is a priority for MaineDOT and our contracting partners,” said Shawn Smith, Senior Project Manager for MaineDOT. “Work zones are meant to provide crews a safe work area as well as a safe route for travelers to pass through a work area. Driver behavior is critical part of a safe, successful, and efficient work zone formula. Driving with attention, with courtesy, with patience, and at the advisory speed limit helps everyone arrive at their destinations and our crews return home safely at the end of their shifts.”

Sgt. Jodell Wilkinson of the Maine State Police said, “Every day, law enforcement officers, highway crews, and tow truck drivers work within inches of people’s vehicles, and every day, we see drivers not paying attention, putting their lives at risk as well as ours. Work zones need a driver’s undivided attention. Motorists should be alert, slow down, and move over if possible. Risky driving behavior puts us all at risk.”

Kelly Flagg, Executive Director of Associated Generate Contractors of Maine, said, “Construction crews are entering another busy season of improving our state highways and roads. We need every single driver to help us by slowing down in work zones, putting down phones, and paying attention. The combination of speed and distracted driving is constantly on our minds in the construction industry. While we can continue adding new technology, signs, and improvements to keep our workers safe, we are pleading with the public to help us this construction season. Nothing is more important than ensuring every worker can go home at night to see his or her family.”

“The AAA Foundation for Traffic recently surveyed tow truck workers, emergency responders, and road maintenance workers and found that 60 percent of those surveyed had experienced a near miss while working on the roadside, while 15 percent had survived being hit by a passing vehicle,” said Pat Moody, Manager of Public Affairs & Government Affairs with AAA Northern New England. “As motorists, we need to keep our brains and eyes active when approaching and navigating through work zones and around roadside emergencies. Slow down, move over, and stay alert.”

Members of the public are encouraged to wear orange on Wednesday, April 19th to raise awareness about work zone safety.