Arkansas to launch safety campaign following the deaths in construction zones
A rise in accidents in road construction work zones over the past four years is prompting a new safety campaign being launched by the Arkansas Department of Transportation next week. Ellen Coulter, spokesperson for the department, said two recent fatal accidents in construction zones emphasized the need for more precautions.
“We’ve known that we wanted to launch a campaign early on in this year, and then with this two most recent ARDOT employee deaths, it’s become even more timely and more necessary for us to get this going and to really raise awareness around the issues,” Coulter said.
Accidents and injuries in work zones have increased about 70% since 2018, Coulter said. A strategic plan developed by the department in 2017 listed construction work zone fatalities as an area of concern.
The strategic plan says although less than 1% of roadway fatalities in Arkansas occurred in construction work zones in 2014, the number is expected to increase due to additional highway construction activity as a result of the Connecting Arkansas Program.”
Recent federal and state legislation is expected to again increase the number of construction work zones in Arkansas. Last year, voters approved a permanent half-cent sales tax increase (Issue 1) dedicated to the state’s highways, bridges and roads.
“With the passage of the recent infrastructure bill and the passage of Issue 1 in Arkansas, both of those things mean there will be more construction zones across the entire state. That, coupled with the fact that we have seen this increase in injuries and accidents in work zones, means that we really need to place a strong emphasis on safety within work zones,” Coulter said.
The Arkansas State Police and Highway Patrol are partners in the campaign and are expected to increase enforce of speed limits and other safety measures in work zones. The campaign begins Feb. 2 and will last through mid-April. Coulter says data collected about accidents during the two-month campaign will inform future Department of Transportation policies and recommendations.