BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — This week, agencies across the country are working to remind motorists to drive safely through construction zones, during National Work Zone Awareness Week, from April 26th to April 30th. 

From 2015 to 2019, more than 50 thousand work zone crashes took place in the State of Florida, which ended up in over 380 deaths and more than 2,400 severe injuries. Workers were present in 35 percent of those fatal incidents, and in 44 percent of the severe injury crashes.

In 2019, about a fifth of the crashes involved rear-end collisions. 

According to Florida Highway Patrol Public Affairs Officer, Lieutenant Jason King, those crashes often happen because of distracted driving.

“We get distracted and unaware of our surroundings, which leads to, we don’t see the worker who is wearing bright yellow or bright orange standing in the roadway or trying to walk out to usea sign to stop us or slow us down,” he said. “It leads to fatal crashes.”

National Work Zone Awareness Week is a push to slow the number of crashes through community awareness; it’s an issue that’s taken a national spotlight since 1999.

“These guys are out here working in the hot sun and the rain trying to get these roads open so it is safer for [us] to travel on,” Lt. King said. “In the meantime we have to focus on their safety.”

Florida Department of Transportation Spokesman Ian Satter said the best way to do that is to be paying attention in work zones and following the law, slowing down around workers and heeding their directions.

“We want you to mind your speed when you’re in a work zone,” Satter said. “Keep an eye out for folks when you’re travelling as well. Put that phone down and make sure when you’re driving you’re keeping an eye on the road. Not only who is in front of you or behind you but also who might be beside you in one of these orange vests.”

Lt. King said speeding through construction zones and not following directions of roadside workers can lead to serious consequences, like fines and points on your license. 

“If we see that, we will enforce it. We’ll do what we can to help keep these workers safe.”

Most of all, Satter said the workers are doing an important job and their workspace should be as respected as anyone else’s.

“The people who work in our work zones, this is their office,” he said. “They come out here every day. They’re here to provide for their families, they’re here to help build this community and work on the transportation system so that we can make it better for the people who live and work and visit this area so we’re respecting them, we’re trying to be very careful of them.”

“Being aware I would say is the utmost responsibility of our drivers,” Lt. King said. “Awareness and lack of distractions.”