Give ‘em a brake

Published 9:25 am Wednesday, August 9, 2017

For most of us, highway workers are an orange blur flitting past our passenger windows as we drive through a highway work zone. If we’re being safe — and far too many drivers are not — we might have slowed down and moved to the far side of our travel lane, but soon enough we’re back at highway speeds, and the work zone is quickly an ever-more-distant memory.

But for those who spend their days and nights working to improve the roads around Virginia, there’s a different perspective, one that would be frightening for most of us.

Consider for a moment the prospect of working on Rt. 58, as crews currently are. It’s a very busy road, and traffic moves along at more than 60 miles per hour, passing by the road construction crews laboring away just a couple of feet from the passing cars and trucks.

It’s a dangerous way to earn a living, as evidenced by the work-zone crash statistics kept by the Virginia Department of Transportation. During the 12-month period ending May 1, there were 2,488 work-zone crashes around the commonwealth.

For all the safety equipment the workers employ on their projects — high-visibility clothing, reflective vests, cushion vehicles designed to take the brunt of a crash, cones, warning signs and more — the incidence of accidents involving highway workers is still alarming.

And yet, much of the danger could be averted by drivers simply paying attention to the road, slowing down in general, but certainly as they’re passing construction zones, and giving workers as wide a berth as possible.

These folks are simply trying to earn a living, and their efforts ultimately are aimed at improving the highways and making them safer for all of us.

For a long time, VDOT had a slogan about highway construction: “Highway workers — Give ‘em a Brake!”

We could not think of better advice to help ensure that these men and women get home to see their families at the end of their shifts.

Give ‘em a brake, indeed.