VDOT: Put Down Your Cell Phones

April 19, 2010

In observance of National Work Zone Awareness Week, the Virginia Department of Transportation is reminding drivers to put down their cell phones while driving, particularly in work zones.

VDOT is joining other state departments of transportation and transportation industry partners to raise awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving

“I see it all the time -- someone driving through the work zone with their cell phone to their ear, trying to have a conversation while they maneuver around traffic cones and construction equipment,” Staunton District Work Zone Safety Coordinator Forester Wright said. “If they knew how dangerous this was for them and the workers, they’d put the phone down.”

It’s not just for workers safety that drivers need to pay attention. Work zone injuries and deaths most often involve motorists, not workers. On average, four out of five people killed in work zone crashes are drivers, not highway workers.

Nationally, 720 workers and motorists were killed in highway work zones and more than 40,000 were injured in 2008. In Virginia, there were more than 2,000 crashes in work zones on state-maintained roadways in 2008, the last full year for which data was available. Of those crashes, seven people died and more than 1,000 were injured.

Statistics show that the majority of crashes occurred on primary routes and involved drivers in their early 20s.

“Highway work zones are one of the most dangerous places for both drivers and workers,” Acting Commissioner Greg Whirley said. “You can decrease your chances of being involved in a work zone crash if you develop a habit of putting distractions away, like cell phones, when you see signs alerting you to a work zone ahead.”

VDOT will hold a vigil honoring state highway transportation workers who died while performing their jobs on Tuesday, April 20 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the VDOT Workers’ Memorial. The monument is located along I-64 east at mile marker 102 near Afton Mountain in Albemarle County. It was built in 2004 and paid for entirely by contributions from citizens and VDOT employees.

The site provides a place where family members, friends and colleagues can reflect on their loss and where travelers can become more aware of the sacrifices state highway transportation workers make everyday.

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