MoDOT’s plea to drivers: ‘Work with us’ this construction season

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More buffer truck crashes than ever before. Dozens of work zone fatalities. This is how Missouri will remember its 2020 construction season, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation. And that’s why the department is pleading with drivers to help turn the tide in 2021. 

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is urging motorists to make smart, safe driving choices behind the wheel as part of National Work Zone Awareness Week, beginning today and running through Friday. 

In 2020, MoDOT protective vehicles with truck/trailer-mounted attenuators (TMAs) were struck an unprecedented 48 times. Jack Kirtlink, a maintenance worker in MoDOT’s Northeast District, was just one of the dozens of MoDOT employees hit while driving these protective vehicles in 2020. Despite signage and flashing lights, a motorist crashed into his equipment at 70 mph, and the TMA ended up underneath the driver’s truck, according to the department. 

Since 2018, TMA crashes have resulted in 32 injuries and one fatality, according to MoDOT. These crashes are almost always the result of a driver not paying attention and/or driving too fast for conditions.

“We need drivers to work with us,” said State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer Nicole Hood. “Last year, 27 lives were lost in work zone crashes. It’s on all of us to step up and make smart choices behind the wheel.”

“We’ve got a job to do, and we want everyone to be safe. Just pay attention and slow down; that’s all we’re asking,” said Kirtlink.

Every driver can take two simple actions to help protect themselves and those working along the highways: buckle up and put the phone down. According to MoDOT, 74% of vehicle occupant fatalities in work zones were not wearing a seat belt in 2020. And distracted driving remains a leading contributor to work zone crashes.

Speeding is also a growing concern in work zones. MoDOT is partnering with the Missouri State Highway Patrol for ‘OPERATION PROTECT’ to actively enforce speed limits in some of the state’s top work zones throughout the construction season.

To help keep workers and motorists safe, MoDOT has piloted the use of real-time digital alerts — Makeway Safety and HAAS Alert — on emergency response trucks and is expanding the installation of HAAS Alert to more than 500 vehicles, including all emergency response trucks and several mobile operation trucks. 

The technology enables MoDOT vehicles with emergency lights flashing to send alerts to motorists through tools such as the WAZE navigation app, giving drivers early warnings on approaching work zones.

Drivers should be aware of changing traffic conditions, observe warning signs and merge before reaching lane closures. 

“You play a vital role in work zone safety,” said Hood. “Traffic can stop unexpectedly, or workers could enter the roadway. Stay alert, so you know when to slow down and move over.”

To help make your travel safer, visit MoDOT’s Traveler Information Map at www.traveler.modot.org and find out what work zones you’ll encounter before you go. Missouri’s new strategic highway safety plan, Show-Me Zero, provides information for all Missourians to help promote four key messages: buckle up, phone down, slow down, and drive sober. Residents can view the plan at www.savemolives.com.