City urges cautious driving in work zones

Published 9:14 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2019

“For most people, the crews in work zones are not something that is really on your brain,” said Jacob Fannin, director of occupational health and safety for the City of Troy. “But for the people who work inside those cones, it’s their lives … Working in the roadway is one of the most dangerous things a city employee could do.”

The City of Troy is one of many places across the country participating in National Work Zone Awareness Week, reminding drivers to use caution when entering a work zone.

Between 2016 and 2017, fatal crashes in work zones increased by 3 percent while fatal crashes outside of work zones decreased by 1.5 percent. Work zones also account for an estimated 10 percent of overall congestion and 24 percent of unexpected freeway delays

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Fannin said the city takes many precautions to try to keep work zones safe for everybody.

“One thing that we harp on is setting up a buffer between where the work is actually occurring and where the work zone starts,” Fannin said. “That gives drivers a chance to stop if they drive through the work zone before they hit the workers. That actually happened not long ago on Elba Highway. A woman hit those cones and she had time to stop before she hit these guys up here. Mobile speed bumps are also phenomenal. They look like a big centipede and you can put them wherever you want; that has worked really well in slowing traffic down. And making sure we have adequate signage is always important.”

But Fannin said no amount of preparation on the part of the workers can compensate fro drivers who are not taking caution or paying attention.

The main concerns are people speeding or driving distracted, Fannin said, leaving little reaction time to avoid a collision.

Fannin said the city is sharing photos of the employees who work in these zones this week to put a face to the workers.

“We want people to associate the faces with the work zone,” Fannin said. “Those are the ones you’re going to be passing on the side of the road. That’s somebody’s loved one you could kill, somebody’s father, husband, cousin.”

The workers aren’t the only ones in danger in work zones; in fact, of 799 work zone fatalities in 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that 658 fatalities were drivers and passengers, compared to 136 pedestrians and bicyclists killed.

In 2017, two workers and six pedestrians were killed in Alabama work zones, while 24 drivers and passengers were killed in work zones in the same year.

“We’re trying to do our part; our guys do a very, very good job,” Fannin said. “But we also need citizens to do their part.”