Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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Work zone safety

Safer In The Zone

Each year in Wisconsin, both highway workers and motorists are killed and injured in crashes that happen in highway construction zones.

Recognizing work zones

Major road construction that lasts for weeks and weeks. Emergency vehicles at the side of the road. A snowplow flashing its warning lights. The everyday garbage pickup. In Wisconsin, theyíre all work zones.

Any time people are working in a street or highway near traffic, drivers and workers are at risk. Being able to identify the work zones up ahead can save lives. So learn the signs of a work zone: flashing lights, utility or emergency vehicles, orange signs, flags, barrels and cones. And, of course, people.

Driving in work zones

To protect themselves and others, drivers need to slow down whenever they see flashing lights, or move over, if possible, to leave the lane beside the work zone open. In some construction areas, lowered speed limits are posted and must be obeyed at all times.

Remember, when you enter a work zone, be patient. Worrying about the time and traffic wonít get you anywhere faster. Instead, slow down and pay attention to your surroundings. These tips can help you get in and out of a work zone safely:

  • Donít fool around. Eliminate distractions like eating, drinking, talking on the phone, or fiddling with electronic devices.
  • Expect the unexpected. Speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people and vehicles may be working on or near the road.
  • Slow down. A car traveling 60 mph travels 88 feet per second, and the faster you go the longer it takes to stop.
  • Give yourself room. Rear-end collisions are the most common work zone crashes, so donít tailgate.
  • Allow about three seconds of braking distance. Look for signs. Orange, diamond-shaped signs usually give you ample warning of lane closings, construction areas, and flaggers and other workers ahead.
  • Be patient. If you donít see workers, that doesnít mean theyíre not there. Observe the signs until you see one that says youíve left the work zone.
  • Plan ahead. Leave early or map out an alternate route. Find the latest road conditions and work zone news at http://dot.wi.gov/travel/driving-cond.htm.
  • Follow the law. Slow down and move over, if possible, when you see flashing lights.

Paying for work zone carelessness

In Wisconsin, we take work zone safety seriously. The penalties for careless driving are steep.

  • It can cost you money. A normal speeding ticket can be expensive, but thatís nothing compared to traffic violations made in the zone. In a work zone, penalties are doubled - and fines usually increase every year.
  • It can cost you time. The consequences for injuring or killing someone in a work zone are especially serious. Careless drivers may face thousands of dollars in fines and up to 3 1/2 years in prison if they injure someone in a work zone. The fines for vehicular manslaughter are even higher, as are the prison terms - as many as 10 years. These punishments may increase if the driver was intoxicated or a repeat offender.
  • It can cost your life. The greatest cost of irresponsible driving isnít calculated in dollars or years. Wisconsin sees nearly 2,000 work zone crashes a year. Sometimes, people die. And those tragedies change the lives of everyone left behind - workers, drivers and passengers, family and friends.

The fact is, people who work along Wisconsinís roads are extremely vulnerable. But not every crash in the zone involves workers. In reality, drivers and their passengers are the most common work zone fatalities.

Driving safely protects people on the road and the people in your own car. Driving safely protects you. So follow the rules, follow the law. And be safer in the zone.

Media materials

Audio clips

Video clips

Know the signs

Right lane ends sign
Right lane ends
Merge carefully. Donít risk everyoneís safety by forcing your way into the line at the last minute.
Flagger ahead sign
Flagger ahead
Slow down and be prepared to stop. A real person is out on the road.

Two-way traffic sign
Two-way traffic
Be alert. One travel lane means traffic will be right next to you.
Road work in 1500 feet sign
Road work in 1500 feet
Slow down. At 60 mph, the work zone is just 17 seconds away.

For more information:

Questions about the content of this page:
Office of Public Affairs, opa.exec@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: April 6, 2011

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