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The RhodeWorks program is bringing an unprecedented level of construction projects to Rhode Island, and with them a large amount of work zones for motorists to navigate through.
All traffic plans and the actual setups of shifted, merged or closed lanes is done with careful attention to safety and in coordination with national standards and best practices. We plan the timing and duration of work zones to reduce as much as possible the impact to traffic flow and travel time.
For workers, much is at stake. They are literally putting their lives on the line to keep our road and bridges maintained. They are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. They all deserve to go home safely at the end of the day.
Across the country, about 700 people die per year and more than 25,000 people are seriously injured in work zone-related crashes.
On average, a work zone crash occurs about every 5 minutes. And an overwhelming majority of those killed – about 85 percent – are not the workers on the road, but the driver or occupant of the vehicle involved in the crash.
In Rhode Island, our workers have been injured by drivers crashing into work zones, including one in 2019 involving an impaired driver. Fortunately we have not last any workers in work zone crashes in many years, but it has happened.
Every year, we take a week at the start of the construction season to call attention to the problem of work zone safety in conjunction with National Work Zone Awareness Week. These events have included appearances by workers who have been injured in these types of crashes. At times we will escort television news crews into an active work zone so they can film first-hand the working conditions with men and woman trying to fix roads or bridges with traffic passing only a few feet away and at high speed.
RIDOT is grateful for the efforts of the Rhode Island General Assembly for passage of move over laws to help protect our workers. Initially passed in 2009 for first responders, the law was expanded in 2014 to include highway workers. The law requires to move over when approaching a vehicle with flashing lights and arrow signs, and if they cannot do so, they are required to reduce speed as they pass.
RIDOT makes every effort to alert the public about planned work zones for construction and maintenance activities and posts them on its website at www.ridot.net/traveladvisories. Additional information may be found on RIDOT's Twitter and Facebook sites. Weekly traffic forecasts also are sent to all Rhode Island media and traffic reporting services, and are published each Saturday in the Providence Journal.
State law requires drivers approaching a stationary emergency vehicle or a recovery or repair vehicle, to slow down and vacate the lane next to the stopped vehicle, if they are able. If drivers are not able to move over, they are required to slow down and be prepared to stop.