RIVERTON — Last year, there were 2,400 vehicle crashes in work zones in the Beehive State, according to the Utah Department of Transportation.
As the construction season gets underway, officials from the Utah Department of Transportation, the Utah Highway Patrol and Associated General Contractors of Utah met Tuesday at a work site in Riverton to caution the community and offer simple but important advice:
Slow down, pay attention and eliminate distractions.
"'Tis the season of orange barrels, and we think orange barrels are a thing of beauty. And we love construction," said Richard Thorn, president of Associated General Contractors of Utah, adding that workers are helping our communities develop and respond to growth.
"(Construction workers) are husbands and wives, and mothers and fathers. … Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we forget that when we're driving through a work zone, we need to pay particular attention," Thorn said.
He says it's easy to lose focus rushing to dance recitals, ballgames or the grocery store and to become distracted by cellphones. But these distractions could cost lives.
"It only takes one second out on a job site for someone to be not paying attention and then maybe veer off the lane a little bit and create a life-changing accident."
Though construction companies spend "a lot of time and energy" helping their workers stay safe, no matter how much training workers receive, tragedy can occur in one quick moment, he said.
"It only takes one second out on a job site for someone to be not paying attention and then maybe veer off the lane a little bit and create a life-changing accident," Thorn said.
Not only are workers at risk when cars speed through construction zones, but drivers are as well.
Of the 2,400 crashes in work zones last year, 10 resulted in fatalities. All 10 people who lost their lives were in vehicles, according to UDOT.
Though speeding in any construction zone is hazardous for workers and drivers, speeding on the highway through construction zones carries its own set of risks.
When it comes to construction zones on the freeway, "you need to absolutely slow down," UHP Col. Michael Rapich cautioned.
"You're going into an environment that's more hazardous than a normal freeway is. It's changing. Construction zones can change every day, so you need to be aware of what's going on," he said.
UHP issued 1,500 citations to drivers for speeding in construction zones last year. This year, the agency will continue patrolling to ensure the safety of construction workers, the colonel said.