National Work Zone Awareness Week 2021

In 2019, there were 762 fatal crashes in work zones, resulting in 842 deaths. In addition, 135 roadway workers were killed in work zones in 2019. The vast majority of people killed were motorists, passengers, and pedestrians. * ​

The transportation industry is committed to reducing lives lost across the system. National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is an annual spring campaign held at the start of construction season which encourages safer driving through highway work zones. 

A number of ITS America members, including many state departments of transportation, are leading the way through educational events and training this week, including #GoOrange4Safety Day yesterday, April 28th, where employees and stakeholders were encouraged to wear orange.

Technology can play a major role in the prevention of work zone crashes and fatalities. USDOT’s Work Zone Data Exchange enables infrastructure owners and operators to make work zone data available for third party use,  One member organization, Wisconsin DOT, is eager to share how they are using data to decrease these tragedies:

Each year across the nation crashes are occurring in work zones with some resulting in the worst possible case, a fatality.  In Wisconsin, between April and November, our busiest construction months, we saw a work zone crash every 3.5 hours, which is one too many.  Through the work zone data initiative, we are working towards making work zones safer by collecting and sharing data on work zones to make sure everyone can go home at the end of the day.  We feel that providing this data will make travel on public roads safer and more efficient. 

In order to put work zones on the map, Wisconsin developed a lane closure system that has been in place since 2008 on the State Highway System.  The lane closure system is currently being re-developed to meet the needs of the work zone data exchange by providing a work zone compliant data feed to make work zone data available for 3rd party use.  Wisconsin plans to use technology in work zones, like smart arrow boards, to go from a planned lane closure to active or real-time.  This real-time work zone data will be crucial information in helping not only human drivers navigate more safely, but also help automated driving systems.  Our goal with the involvement in the Work Zone Data Exchange is to make work zones safer for both the motorists and the workers.  

ITS America is also helping to raise awareness on the Work Zone Data Exchange through the Put Work Zones on the Map campaign, which aims to educate current and potential partners on the capabilities, benefits, and progress of Work Zone Data Exchange specification adoption. The focus of this campaign is to engage audiences who are directly involved with work zones: infrastructure owner operators, construction companies, mapping companies, and original equipment manufacturers.

The Data Exchange is just one example of how the USDOT and ITS America member companies are developing and deploying new technologies to make our future safer, greener, and smarter. Find out more at https://www.transportation.gov/av/data/wzdx; and learn more about National Work Zone Awareness Week at https://www.nwzaw.org/.

*  Statistics from the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse 

Thanks to Erin Schwark, PE; Statewide Work Zone Operations Engineer, Wisconsin Department of Transportation
and Carlos Alban, Vice President of Technical Programs with ITS America.