CHOKEPOINTS

Washington begging drivers to slow down in work zones to avoid crashes

Apr 4, 2024, 5:53 AM

washington work zones crashes...

Six WSDOT maintenance workers were injured on I-5 in Vancouver when a driver suspected to be under the influence hit a work truck on Jan. 21. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT)

(Photo courtesy of WSDOT)

Distracted driving, excessive speed and other bad driver behaviors continue to kill and injure people on our roads. The risks of crashes in work zones are particularly severe.

There were 1,228 crashes in work zones or their related backups in Washington last year. Twenty-eight of them resulted in serious injuries. Ten of them were fatal. The risk to those working along our roads is great.

“The number of work zone fatal crashes in 2023 doubled as compared to 2022,” the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Secretary Roger Millar said this week. “This is simply not acceptable.”

Following too closely. Excessive speed. Distraction and impairment are the most likely causes for slamming into a work zone.

There have already been two work zone crashes this year where impairment is suspected. In January, six WSDOT workers doing overnight pothole repair were injured when a suspected drunk driver plowed into their truck near Vancouver.

More on construction zone accidents: WSDOT pleas for safer driving in work zones after more workers injured in crash

“Please slow down in work zones, remain alert, put the phone down and never, ever drive under the influence,” WSDOT Southwest Regional Manager Carley Francis said. Those six workers are in her district.

DUI was a factor in the seven fatal work zone crashes in Washington last year. While not in a work zone, State Trooper Christopher Gadd was killed by a suspected drunk driver going well over 100 mph in Everett earlier this year.

State Patrol Chief John Batiste begged drivers to change their ways at a memorial for fallen WSDOT workers this week.

“When we’re behind the wheels of our cars and our trucks, it’s all about decision making and choices that we make,” he said. “It’s a choice and a poor decision to drive under the influence. It’s a choice and a decision to speed in particular through work zones.”

WSDOT has changed its procedures this year to try and cut down on the number of work zone accidents. Changes include bundling more jobs together to reduce the amount of time workers are exposed to traffic. Moving more jobs to daylight hours.

It’s all so every worker gets home safely every day.

More from Chokepoints: A course in roundabouts; They are not that hard

“If it’s not safe to do it at night, you do the work during the day,” WSDOT Secretary Millar said. “If it’s not safe to do work on the shoulder without taking the lane, take the lane and keep people away from your crew. If it’s not safe to work in the lane, close the highway and keep our workers safe. It’s an inconvenience to the public. But at the end of the shift, everybody goes home.”

The state is also expected to roll out new camera enforcement in work zones, now that the legislature has approved it.

This is National Work Zone Awareness Month. It’s a great reminder for all of us drivers. Those workers are out there for us, making sure our roads are safe to drive.

We should make sure they’re safe while they’re doing it.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints here. You can also follow Chris on X, formerly known as TwitterHead here to follow KIRO Newsradio Traffic’s profile on X.

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Washington begging drivers to slow down in work zones to avoid crashes