While there were fewer crashes, injuries and fatalities in Michigan road construction work zones in 2011 than 2010, officials from the Michigan Department of Transportation are still urging that every caution be taken when behind the wheel, particularly when orange barrels are present.
Last year, there were 4,633 crashes, 1,312 injuries and 18 deaths in Michigan work zones. Those numbers are down from 2010's statistics: 5,632 crashes, 1,488 injuries and 23 deaths.
"While this data suggests some improvement over 2010, drivers must remain focused at all times when they get behind the wheel," State Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said. "Many of these crashes are avoidable and the life you save could be your own."
Orange barrels have become a familiar sight in the past week for motorists in Plymouth, Canton and Northville as a massive project is underway to overhaul 34 bridges and overpasses along a 13-mile stretch of Interstate 275.
MDOT spokesman Rob Morosi said if motorists see crews working on roadways to limit distractions.
"That's one of the leaing causes of accidents, distracted driving," Morosi said. "When you're driving through a work zone — not only for road workers' safety but for your safety — try to limit distractions. Don't test and drive, things of that nature."
MDOT's 2012 public awareness campaign includes a 60-second public service announcement on radio stations throughout the state.
"We join other transportation agencies this week to raise awareness and promote our safety message: by eliminating distractions, our roads become a safer place," Steudle said.
According to the PSA, motorists–not construction workers–are more likely to be killed in work zone crashes.
“More people lose their lives in work zone crashes in Michigan while riding in vehicles," the message says. "Distractions, like texting while driving, can create serious safety hazards. Speeding can be costly and deadly, too. Fines and points are doubled in work zones. And injure or kill anyone, you could face an additional $7,500 fine and up to 15 years in jail. So pay attention in work zones. The life you save could be your own, as well as your passengers."
National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 23-27, is observed across the country. For more information, visit its website.