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Staff report

To reduce accidents and fatalities, state officials emphasized the importance of driving cautiously in work zones during the launch of North Carolina Work Zone Awareness Month in April. North Carolina has numerous work zones on interstates and other four-lane highways. In addition, N.C. Department of Transportation employees and contractors set up smaller work zones for maintenance repairs, drainage improvements, utility easements, and roadside work such as mowing.

From 2019 to 2023, work zones in North Carolina were the sites of 170 fatalities with 33,018 work zone crashes. In 2023, there were 31 people killed in work zone crashes, including three road workers, five pedestrians, and 23 motorists.

“These deaths were tragic and entirely preventable,” stated Col. Freddy Johnson of the N.C. State Highway Patrol. He highlighted the dangers of work zones, noting, “Work zones often contain obstacles and personnel working close to traffic. It’s crucial to slow down and focus fully on driving. Reaction times in these areas are significantly reduced, and any form of carelessness can lead to fatal consequences.”

Statistics show that speeding and distracted driving contribute to more than half of all work zone accidents. Even though workers might not be present in work zones, motorists should still expect narrowed or closed lanes or shoulders, traffic shifts, reduced speed limits, and other conditions that might affect every day travel.

Below are some safety tips to remember when traveling through a work zone.

  • Pay attention.
  • Be alert for work zone signs and flaggers.
  • Watch out for road debris.
  • Don’t tailgate.
  • Be patient and obey posted speed limits, which may be reduced.
  • The penalty for speeding through a signed work zone is an additional $250.
  • Don’t change lanes.
  • Eliminate distractions.
  • Expect the unexpected: Keep an eye out for workers and their equipment.
  • When possible, use alternate routes or travel at non-peak times to avoid traffic congestion.

For more details and safety tips, please visit the NCDOT’s Work Zone Safety website to learn more about navigating work zones safely in North Carolina.

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