Stay aware while driving through work zone construction

More than 2400 work zone crashes occur each year in Wisconsin
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 4:47 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The summer travel season may be winding down, but road construction is still trucking along full speed ahead. why it’s even more important to stay aware and keep workers safe.

“This is normal practice for my guys. It’s unfortunate that it’s become part of the daily routine, part of their job, where they sometimes have to dive in the ditch, and they don’t even think to report it, because that’s just how it is,” said Marathon County Highway Commissioner Jim Griesbach.

Each year, more than 2,400 crashes happen in Wisconsin work zones, and those are just the ones reported. The Wisconsin DOT and Marathon County want you to pay attention in work zones.

“We really need drivers on the road to be doing their part as well,” said Matt Bronson, WisDOT director.

Work Zone Awareness Week is held every year in April, but WisDOT officials say it’s a topic that should be talked about more than once a year.

“It’s a community event. You’re a part of that work zone as much as our workers,” added Griesbach.

Just this year, the Wisconsin State Patrol has issued more than 10,000 warnings and citations for speeding violations and around 400 for distracted driving.

“That extra minute, reading that text, checking those sports scores, they all can wait. They’re not worth the risk of putting your life or someone else’s life in danger,” said Brian Wipf, contractor rep for James Peterson Sons.

Speeding, tailgating, and distracted driving are all common things construction workers see while on the job in a work zone. In 2022, there were 2,336 work zone accidents in Wisconsin. In the past 5 years, there have been 63 deaths, 11,678 crashes, and 4,370 injuries.

“My predecessor had to make that knock at the door, to tell them that one of our workers wasn’t coming home that night to our wife and children. I never want to make that call. I never want to have to do that knock on the door,” Griesbach said.

“Slow down, leave room for those ahead of you. Leave room to break, stay focused, and keep your head down,” Bronson said.

The safety event was held at one of the Marathon County Highway Department buildings, just minutes away from Highway 29 construction. One reason they chose that location is to stress the importance of keeping everyone in construction zones safe and alive.