Harrisburg, PA – The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) today hosted an event to kick off National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW). The week, designated to highlight the critical importance of safe driving through work zones, runs through April 30. The theme of this year's work-zone safety campaign is "Drive safe. Work safe. Save lives."
Surrounded by first-responder vehicles and equipment, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Price, deputy commissioner of operations for the Pennsylvania State Police, began the event by acknowledging the dangers faced by first responders while providing roadside assistance.
"In addition to today being the beginning of Work Zone Awareness week, changes made to Pennsylvania's Move Over Law go into effect tomorrow," Lieutenant Colonel Price explained. "Last year, 55 state police vehicles were struck at traffic stops, disabled motorists, or crash scenes. The goal of the Move Over Law is to prevent these dangerous situations."
Pennsylvania's Move Over Law requires drivers to change lanes when approaching an emergency response area. Updates to the law, which include a new point system for violators and sets a fine of $500 for first-time offenders, $1,000 for a second offense, and $2,000 plus 90-day license suspension for a third or subsequent offense, take effect on April 27. The revamped Move Over Law also mandates drivers change lanes or slow down when approaching disabled vehicles when at least two emergency displays, such as vehicle hazard lamps, road flares, and/or cones or caution signs are present.
According to PennDOT data, in 2020 there were 1,412 work zone crashes, resulting in 15 fatalities. Additionally, since 1970, PennDOT has lost 89 workers in the line of duty. The PA Turnpike has lost 45 workers since 1940.
In an effort to change unsafe driving behaviors in work zones, Pennsylvania implemented the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement (AWSZE) program in March 2020. Pennsylvania's AWZSE program uses vehicle-mounted systems to detect and record motorists exceeding posted work zone speed limits by 11 miles per hour or more using electronic speed timing devices. AWZSE systems are operational in active work zones where workers are present.
Results included in the AWZSE Annual Legislative Report, released today online at workzonecameras.PennDOT.gov, show that the program is meeting its goals of reducing work zone speeds, changing driver behavior, and improving work zone safety for both workers and motorists. Work zone speeds trended downward throughout AWZSE enforced work zones. Data shows a 16.6 percent reduction in the percentage of vehicles traveling over the posted work zone speed limit and a 43.6 percent reduction in the percentage of vehicles excessively speeding (11 miles per hour or more over the posted work zone speed limit). There is also evidence that overall work zone speeds have declined in projects that have had long-term deployments, regardless if the AWZSE units have been deployed or not. Additionally, overall work zone crashes in Pennsylvania work zones were down 19 percent in 2020.
"Construction season too often means hazards for the men and women who are delivering improved roads and bridges," said PennDOT Acting Executive Deputy Secretary Melissa Batula. "Work zones may be a temporary inconvenience, but these workers all deserve to get home safely. Please slow down and never drive distracted, especially in work zones where roadway conditions can change every day."
After limited travel during the pandemic, 93 percent of American drivers are now returning to the roadway and 62 percent plan to travel by car this summer for vacations, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA).
"As drivers return to the road after months of limited travel, we are seeing an increase in the severity of roadway incidents impacting our road crews," explained Craig Shuey, PA Turnpike Chief Operating Officer. "Today, you have learned of our multi-pronged approach to keeping our workers and drivers safe in work zones and along the roadway. However, the core component to protecting workers and motorists is driver behavior. Don't forget your safe-driving manners and be certain you are fully aware of what is happening on and along the roadway."
For more information on work zone safety or Pennsylvania's updated Move Over Law, visit www.PennDOT.gov/Safety.
For more information on the Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement program, including a list of projects where the units are deployed, visit https://workzonecameras.penndot.gov/.
For more information on work zone safety and an opportunity to take the safe-driving pledge, visit https://www.idriveorange.com/.
Photos and video from this event will be available at www.pacast.com.
Ryan Tarkowski, PSP, 717-783-5556
Jennifer Kuntch, PennDOT, firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-705-1551
Carl DeFebo, PTC, 717-645-2265 or Rosanne Placey, 717-675-4362