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SAFE COMMUNITIES NEWS

Traffic Crashes with Injuries on the Rise in Road Construction Work Zones

Originally Released: August 17, 2023.

Dane County is experiencing significantly more construction work zone crashes this year in which motorists are injured, according to a report from the Dane County Traffic Safety Commission (TSC).

Randy Wiessinger, TSC member and Law Enforcement Liaison/Consultant with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Bureau of Transportation Safety, said, “So far in the first seven months this year, we have seen 27 crashes in which motorists were injured in Dane County work zones, compared to a total of 24 all of last year. Thankfully, so far this year there have been no deaths, but, tragically, last year we experienced one death in a work zone crash.”

Wiessinger noted that in Dane County last year there were 135 total work zone crashes. Work zone crashes in 2023 year-to-date total 93 and, like those involving injuries, also are expected to exceed last year’s total, he said.

As area drivers maneuver around the many orange cones, lane restrictions and road closures, the 48-member Dane County Traffic Safety Commission is issuing a reminder to drive safely in work zones. In the past five years, Wisconsin saw 11,678 work zone crashes, which resulted in 63 deaths and 4,370 injuries, according to Wiessinger. To put that into perspective, he said, during last year’s construction season, there was one work zone crash every four hours in the state. In Wisconsin, the typical construction season is April through November.

“Increased funding for road construction in recent years has led to a significant increase in the number of road projects. Simultaneously, increased traffic volumes and driver frustration have led to an increased likelihood of work zone injuries and deaths,” Wiessinger said.

Matt Meyer, TSC co-chair and sergeant with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office said the most common crash in a highway work zone is a rear-end collision. Leading causes are speeding, tailgating and distracted driving.

“That’s why we recommend those driving through a work zone maintain a separation of at least five seconds between them and the vehicle they are following,” Sgt. Meyer said.

“Work zones are not there to inconvenience you. They are necessary to improve the roads for everyone. And those men and women working in the zones are putting their own lives at risk. They too have lives and families and we owe it to them to drive cautiously.”

Sgt. Meyer provided these tips for reducing the risks to drivers and work zone workers:

  • Slow down. Observe speed limit signs, even if traffic is moving smoothly.
  • Be alert to changing traffic patterns.
  • Leave space between your vehicle and workers or equipment when possible.
  • Expect delays; leave early to reach your destination on time.
  • Check for route delays on your smartphone map before you leave home.
  • If lanes are closed ahead, merge into open lanes as soon as possible.
  •  When possible, avoid work zones altogether.

Meyer also reminds drivers that, while it may be tempting, it is against Wisconsin law to use hand-held devices such as smartphones in a work zone except to report an emergency.

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MAT: Medication for Addiction Treatment.
OP: Outpatient Treatment – person lives at home or in the community, attends. individual and group therapy, these can include or not include MAT.
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