The Solution is in Your Hands

David A. Frye.

It’s time to be honest with you.

You’re the problem.

Every year about this time we warn you, the motoring public, that highway work is beginning across the country. State Police, State Departments of Transportation, workers, Unions, OSHA, and more; we produce public service announcements and billboards and newspaper ads begging you to be alert, slow down, and drop the phone in work zones.

Yet, every year the number of fatalities in work zones increases.

We have tried to scare you by telling you about the stiff penalties for speeding and reckless driving in work zones. We have tried to appeal to your humanity by talking about the tens of thousands of lives that have been destroyed due to work zone accidents.

Yet every year, the number of work zone crashes exceeds 100,000.

We have successfully lobbied state legislatures across the country to enact stricter safety laws with tougher penalties. We have fought for reduced speeds in work zones, and cones, then barrels, then barrier walls. We have fought for work zone cameras and police officers. We have fought for higher minimum fines for speeding in work zones, and mandatory jail time for accidents.

That still doesn’t seem to have done the trick.

My Union, the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), requires hours of safety training before our members ever set foot on a job site. They are qualified flaggers; they know the best techniques for keeping themselves and their co-workers safe on the job. Our members are equipped with all appropriate personal protective gear; hard hats, steel toed boots, high visibility safety vests, gloves, glasses, and ear plugs.

But we can’t protect them from you.

National Work Zone Awareness Week is April 15-19. It is held annually to remind the motoring public that there are now people out there fixing those potholes and finishing those projects you’ve been complaining about all winter. These workers are not here to “make you late” or inconvenience you. They are doing the hard and dangerous work it takes to keep you and this country moving – literally. And, what each of them wants more than anything is to get home safely from their job. It’s really the least any of us can ask for in any job.

You are the wild card. We can’t make you slow down in work zones. We can’t make you leave earlier, and we can’t make you wait two minutes to answer the phone or respond to that text. That is YOUR responsibility.

We will continue to remind you that one second of distraction, or poor decision-making, can have a lifetime of consequences. We will continue to implore you to slow down in work zones. We will continue to fight for tougher penalties and tighter safety regulations. However, none of that will help us achieve the goal of zero accidents and zero fatalities in work zones without your commitment to the safety of workers and drivers in work zones. It’s past time to break the patterns, and be the solution instead of the problem. Slow down. Be alert. Help everyone get home safe.

David A. Frye is the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Vice President and Midwest Regional Manager. He is a 38 year member of LIUNA Local 120 in Indianapolis, Indiana.