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Work Zone Awareness Week Aims to Keep Workers and Motorists Safe

construction cone
Photo Credit: Michele Skalicky

It’s Work Zone Awareness Week—MODOT and area law enforcement agencies want you to stay safe and not endanger workers as you drive through road construction areas.

With the James River Freeway and Kansas Expressway converging diamond interchange project as a backdrop, representatives of MODOT, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Springfield Police Department highlighted the importance of paying attention in work zones.

Juan Villanueva, commander for the State Highway Patrol’s Troop D, says drivers always need to pay attention, but especially in areas where workers are present…

"We get so distracted with our busy lives, you know, listening to the radio, listening to the phone, and whenever you come into these construction zones the lanes are reduced, the speeds are reduced, and they really need to make the extra effort of putting their phone down, maybe stop drinking if they're taking a drink and really pay attention.  It's only gonna slow them down just for a few seconds to be going through there, and it's gonna make it safer for our workers and also for them," he said.

Eight people were killed in Missouri work zones in 2012 compared with 11 in 2011 and 623 were injured—down from 712 the year before.

According to MODOT, the top five contributing circumstances for work zone crashes last year were following too closely, inattention, improper lane use or change, failure to yield and driving too fast for conditions—in that order.

There are enhanced penalties for moving violations in work zones.  For example, those who are caught driving more than 15 mph over the speed limit in a work zone or are driving carelessly, could face an additional fine of up to $1,000.  A motorist who injures a worker in a work zone could face fines of up to $10,000.

And Villanueva says Missouri’s “slow down and move over” law now includes not only emergency vehicles but also state Department of Transportation vehicles displaying yellow and white flashing lights…

"You need to move over when you can," he said.  "If you cannot move over, you need to reduce your speed to go past and pay extra attention in case something happens to comes out into your lane, would you have time to react?"

Villanueva says the highway patrol pays extra attention to work zones this time of year.

To find out about road work in the region, visit modot.org/southwest.

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.