Our View: Be cautious, drive safe in work zones

Published 9:09 am Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Kentucky Transportation Department announced Monday evening a longtime employee died after being struck by a vehicle in a work zone.

According to media reports, 44-year-old Keith Jewell was killed Friday when he was hit by a contractor’s truck on Kentucky 70 in Taylor County.

While we don’t know the exact circumstances of the crash that caused this fatality, there are hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries caused each year by people driving carelessly in work zones.

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This death serves as a tragic reminder of the need for precautions in work zones.

According to data from the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, work zone crashes, and the subsequent injuries and even fatalities, are more common than many would think.

In 2017, there were 710 fatal crashes, up from the previous three-year average of about 650.

In those crashes, there were 799 fatalities, again, higher than the previous three-year average of 721.

Additionally, 132 of those fatalities were to workers.

In Kentucky, nine fatal work zone crashes resulted in 15 fatalities in 2017, the highest number of fatalities in the last decade.

One worker was killed in a work zone crash in 2017.

Besides fatalities, there are many, many more injuries caused by careless driving in work zones.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration offers these tips for traveling in work zones safely:

— Research your route. Before setting out on the road, research your route. When possible, avoid work zones and use any available detours.

— Pay attention. You should always keep your eyes on the road, but this is exceptionally important in work zones. Be aware of all signage throughout work zones that can indicate reduced speeds, lane changes and other relevant information. Avoid distractions such as your cell phone, eating, drinking, the radio, GPS and conversing with other passengers.

— Slow down. Lane closures, traffic pattern shifts and reduced speeds are common in work zones. Make sure to slow down when entering a work zone and keep an eye out for road workers.

— Move into the open lane. When approaching lane closures, move into the open lane as soon as possible. Be sure to pay close attention to the vehicles around you that could be in your blind spot.

— Keep your distance. Rear-end crashes are prevalent in work zones — maintain extra space between your car and the one in front of you at all times.

With warmer weather, work on roadways and other public infrastructure picks up.

Likewise, travel on our highways and other roads also picks up.

Too often, people are seen driving too fast, ignoring the warning signs and driving recklessly through work zones.

While we understand work zones can slow traffic and cause some inconveniences, these people are trying to do their jobs, and they are doing an excellent service for our communities by helping to improve our roadways and make them safer.

We owe it to them to be careful and follow the rules of the road in these areas.

Doing so could prevent more tragic deaths like the one reported this week.