To help prevent traffic crashes in road construction and maintenance work zones that injure and kill motorists and workers, Governor Scott Walker has proclaimed April 11 to 15 as Work Zone Awareness Week in Wisconsin.
Last year in Wisconsin, tragic crashes killed three highway workers.
•Derrick Burkhalter, age 50, of Hilbert died on May 4, 2015, from injuries suffered in a crash on US 10 in Calumet County. He was driving a sweeper truck following two graders that were repairing a gravel shoulder in a marked work zone. His sweeper truck was struck in the rear by a vehicle, which also was traveling along the shoulder. The vehicle went under the rear of the sweeper, lifted it off the ground, and traveled about 100 feet before the sweeper turned on its side.
•Derek Stempa, 30, of Shawano died on May 26, 2015. While working as a flagger for the Shawano County Highway Department, he was struck and fatally injured by a van at the intersection of WIS 47 and County G near Gresham.
•Marcus Wydeven, 50, of Tomahawk died on July 14, 2015. He was working as a flagger for the Lincoln County Highway Department when he was struck by a car and sustained fatal injuries on WIS 17 near Merrill.
“The tragic deaths of Derrick Burkhalter, Derek Stempa and Marcus Wydeven are a profound reminder that we all need to slow down, be patient and pay attention when driving through work zones,” says Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Secretary Mark Gottlieb. “Please remember that the workers who are doing their jobs close to traffic want to go home to their loved ones just like you do.”
To help make work zones safer, WisDOT will use temporary portable rumble strips on a dozen state highway improvement projects this construction season. The rumble strips provide an auditory and vibratory warning to drivers to slow down when entering a work zone.
WisDOT also will periodically display messages on its electronic signs on highways and will use social media to remind drivers to slow down and pay attention. (Visit facebook.com/WisDOT, twitter.com/WisconsinDOT, youtube.com/user/wisdot). Television and radio messages about work zone safety will be broadcast statewide.
In addition, officers from the Wisconsin State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies will be deployed in work zones to enforce speed limits and other traffic laws.
“The goal of our work zone safety enforcement and public education efforts is to motivate drivers to behave responsibly. Driving through a work zone is challenging under the best of circumstances, but your reaction time and margin for error are reduced significantly if you speed, tailgate or don’t pay attention to rapidly changing traffic situations. Rear-end collisions are the most frequent type of crash in a work zone,” says Secretary Gottlieb. “In work zones, workers and equipment often are operating within a few feet of traffic. Although construction workers are at a great risk of being hit, about three out of four people killed in work zone crashes are motorists. Because of the risks to motorists and workers, traffic fines are double in work zones.”
Secretary Gottlieb adds that the state’s Move Over Law helps protect workers by requiring drivers to shift lanes if possible or slow down in order to provide a safety zone for law enforcement vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks, tow trucks, highway maintenance and utility vehicles that are on the side of a road with their warning lights flashing.