The increasing numbers of work zones occupying US roadways this time of year not only affect the timeliness of our daily commutes, but without the proper attention of motorists and workers alike, their presence on the roads can be a traffic safety hazard. For this reason National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is observed every April, and each year a theme is chosen to spotlight a crucial aspect of
work zone safety. This year, NWZAW was observed April 15-19 and the theme was “Work Zone Safety: We’re All In This Together.” This theme emphasizes the need for everyone to be aware and involved in safety efforts in and around work zones on the roads, including motorists, road workers, law enforcement, utility workers, DOTs, emergency response, and even bicyclists and pedestrians.
In keeping with this theme, Area Wide Protective, America’s Traffic Control Leader, brought NWZAW to the attention of the community surrounding their corporate headquarters in Kent, Ohio. Area Wide Protective (AWP) teamed up with Universal Driver’s Training Center (UDTC), Stow-Munroe Falls High School (SMFHS), and Cuyahoga Falls High School (CFHS) to provide two free educational programs about work zone traffic safety to local teens. This program equipped the student drivers with the knowledge and experience they need to be safe and feel comfortable when they inevitably encounter work zones on the roads. As navigating through a work zone can be a stressful, nerve-racking situation for any driver, AWP and UDTC feel it is especially important for less experienced drivers to be well informed and well prepared.
The two programs developed and taught by traffic safety and training experts from AWP and UDTC were held at Stow-Munroe Falls High School and Cuyahoga Falls High School. Both programs began with classroom instruction in the respective school buildings where Chad Barnard, AWP’s Regional Training Manager, introduced National Work Zone Awareness Week and summarized the importance of being cautious on the roads, especially around work zones. The students were given handouts which illustrated a temporary traffic control zone, a two-lane road lane closure using flaggers, a highway lane closure, and a lane shift on the freeway. Mr. Barnard explained the intent of the traffic signs leading up to each work zone, what a driver can expect, and how they should adjust to the conditions. Mike Mills, a trainer for AWP, then gave a demonstration using a stop/slow paddle and a flag, and shared personal stories from his experience as a flagger for AWP.
Following the in-class presentations, the students followed Chad and Mike to a full-size work zone, set up and operated by an AWP team as a lane closure using flaggers. Some students had the opportunity to actually drive through the zone on a golf cart (provided by UDTC) and experience first-hand what they can expect to encounter on the roads in a safe, controlled environment. As students navigated through the zone, Mr. Barnard continued to offer instruction and safe driving tips.
Nearly 30 students from home school programs, Kent State University, and Stow-Munroe Falls, Cuyahoga Falls, Akron STEM, and Woodridge High Schools participated in these programs. The students who participated were asked to complete a survey and share what they learned. Here are some of the messages they would share with others about work zone awareness:
“[As a driver] I have to not only be aware of the safety of myself, but also the safety of others.” – Gino, SMFHS
“Be prepared to stop or slow down at any time [when driving through work zones].” – Lauren, SMFHS
“Always watch people and workers that are on the side of the road – they could be in danger if drivers don’t watch out.” – Erika, SMFHA
“You need to make sure you watch flaggers because they are just there to make sure you are safe… People are very impatient these days, so when people understand why we have flaggers they may appreciate it more.” – Taylor, CFHS
“Always pay attention to the people, drivers, and signs around you.” – Sarah, STEM Akron HS
“Always be aware of what is around you and slow down while driving by work zones.” – Lauren, SMFHS
Thanks to guidance from AWP and UDTC, nearly thirty students from Summit and Portage Counties will be getting into the driver’s seat well prepared to face construction season on the roads with confidence this year. These students will share what they learned with their friends and families and we can all be more aware and more cautious as we hit the roads because, “We’re All In This Together!”