Editor's Notebook May 2022

This year's National Work Zone Awareness Week was held April 11 to 15 and was hosted by the Virginia Department of Transportation. It's an annual spring campaign held at the start of construction season to encourage safe driving through highway work zones with the key message directed at motorists to use extra caution in work zones. From the most recently available data, there were 857 work zone fatalities in 2020.

New York once again began its Operation Hardhat campaign during which police ramp up tickets in an effort to crack down on moving violations through work zones. Last year, a total of 2,336 tickets were issued, which was a record number. Under Operation Hardhat, police officers are present within the work zones — dressed as highway maintenance workers — to identify motorists who are distracted by electronic devices while driving, disobey flagging personnel, speed through the work zone, or violate the state's Move Over Law, which applies to both emergency and maintenance vehicles.

It's a great program; if you're a highway worker, it's kind of like having an air marshal on your flight … you just feel safer. But record number of tickets in 2021? People know of this program and you sure see enough warning signs as you approach work zones and more tickets are being issued? Operation Hardhat has been around for a while and if I pretend to be cynical (OK, I'm older, so maybe I'm cynical), I might conclude that laws don't always seem to work. Yes, laws are necessary, of course, but it sure seems like some people view laws as a consequence for actions as opposed to a deterrence of them. I mean, you can't steal, but some people still do because they figure they're good enough to get away with it. That's human nature, I suppose — push things as close to or beyond a boundary and see if it works out.

I commend law enforcement for doing everything they can to help make highway work zones safer. But I wish motorists would use their imagination before they enter a work zone and think about how they'd feel if their son or daughter was working there before they race through it or play around with their phones. Look, we all kind of push the envelope a bit when driving — go a little bit over the speed limit or try to race the yellow light before it turns red. But for God's sake, 857 fatalities in 2020. I wish people would imagine how they'd feel if there were that many deaths in their profession and how they'd respond if people outside of their profession were causing these deaths. As John Lennon once sang … Imagine, it isn't very hard to do. P


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