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HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — Monday, officials with PennDOT, the PA Turnpike Commission and the PA State Police spoke about the importance of driving cautiously in work zones. Next week, April 17-21, is National Work Zone Awareness Week.
As PennDOT, Turnpike and private construction workers get prepared to improve the roads, officials are asking drivers to prepare for a busy construction season by prioritizing safety.
According to preliminary data from PennDOT, there were 1,293 work zone crashes in 2022, resulting in 14 fatalities. There were also 171 reported intrusions in PennDOT work zones resulting in 13 injuries to workers. Since 1940, a total of more than 130 PennDOT and Turnpike workers have lost their lives while improving Pennsylvania’s infrastructure.
“Distracted driving is a choice,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton.
“Work zones may be a temporary inconvenience, but these workers all deserve to get home safely. Please slow down and pay attention when you’re driving, especially in the work zones and buckle up every time,” said Cheryl Moon-Sirianni, Executive Deputy Secretary at PennDOT.
Officials say new technology, like speed cameras, have promoted safer work zones.
“Last year alone, the speeds reduced about 17 percent by these cameras being put up in certain work zones,” said Moon-Sirianni.
The cameras capture the license plates of vehicles exceeding the work zone limit by eleven or more miles per hour with workers present. According to State Police, a first offense is a written warning, second offense is a $75 fine, third and subsequent offenses are $150 fine each time.
“I understand that no one enjoys being caught in construction zone traffic, but imagine the loss of losing a loved one, one who’s doing their job, working outside in the elements to keep travelers safe, and because of the carelessness of an inattentive or impaired driver, they lose their life,” said Major Robert Krol, Bureau of Patrol Director for PSP. “There is no excuse, slow down in work zones, obey the posted speed limits, please buckle up, put your cell phone down and eliminate all other distractions while driving,” he added.
Maj. Krol also reminded drivers of Pennsylvania’s Move Over Law, which requires drivers to move over for all emergency responders including tow trucks and roadside assistance vehicles. The law also now covers all vehicles that have two emergency displays present with a disabled vehicle. Displays include hazard lights, traffic cones, flares, triangles and caution signs.
With recent federal infrastructure dollars, officials say it’s going to be a busy season for roadway construction. They want to keep it a safe season as well.
“You’re going to see more work zones, you’re going to see more orange barrels, orange cones, channelizing devices. Motorists traveling through the work zones have to pay attention because these patterns often change weekly, daily, sometimes every few hours,” said Moon-Sirianni. “Give yourself a few minutes ahead of time if you know there’s going to be some slowdowns on your way,” she added.
Moon-Sirianni says PennDOT does the best it can to accommodate drivers and avoid construction during peak travel hours. However, she says working at night can pose additional concerns.
“We try really hard to be very respectful of the people that travel all of our roads. We try to do our projects off peak hours when there’s not as much traffic, but we can’t do that all the time. Sometimes when you work at night that’s very, very dangerous for our workers. There’re folks that are impaired driving at night, folks can’t see as well at night,” said Moon-Sirianni.
According to officials, there are over 1,800 construction projects planned across the Commonwealth this year.
You can find more information on Work Zone Safety here.
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