Those orange construction barrels sprung up faster this spring than flowers. Between two projects on I-69 and county road work already underway plus plans for city and village paving projects, motorists will be encountering work zones across the Tri-City area for many months to come.

Although an inconvenience for drivers, it’s crucial to remember those work zones are workplaces for the men and women employed in the highway construction industry and they deserve to feel safe on the job. Road construction projects and the hazards involved take a heavy toll on drivers and anyone else in their vehicle.

According to the Office of Highway Safety Planning there were more than 4,035 work zone crashes in Michigan in 2020. Eleven of those crashes resulted in a fatality for a total of 14 work zone deaths. Statistics show that the highest number of work zone crashes occur when lanes are closed. State officials say that most often drivers or their passengers are killed or injured in work zone crashes.

The numbers show that work zone crashes are most often caused by distracted or inattentive drivers. Speed is the leading cause of crashes that result in a fatality.

Of course safety should be top of mind for drivers, passengers and construction crews, but if that’s not enough to persuade more caution in work zones, perhaps the penalties handed out by law enforcement will. A Michigan driver can get three points assessed to their record for speeding 10 miles per hour or less over the posted limit in a work zone. Going more than 15 miles per hour over the limit and you’ll rack up five points. Nearly 20 years ago, Andy’s Law came into effect and has since been broadened and expanded on several occasions to stiffen the fines—up to $7,500—and jail time—up to 15 years—for motorists who injure or kill anyone in a road construction work zone.

The Michigan Department of Transportation encourages drivers in work zones to minimize distractions, obey road crews and signs, pay attention to other drivers and not speed or tailgate. Everyone should slow down and be prepared for sudden stops. Most importantly, be patient and stay calm.

Please do your part this summer and every season to stay safe on the roads, particularly in construction zones.