Work zone safety

Road work zones are necessary for the upkeep and improvement of Wisconsin's infrastructure, and every year thousands of hard-working men and women participate in street, highway and bridge projects statewide. While all roadwork is temporary, the decisions - and mistakes - that drivers make in work zones can have a lasting impact.

There are unfortunately thousands of crashes in our work zones every construction season. Drivers and passengers - not workers - make up the vast majority of those either hurt or killed. It's in every driver's best interest to stay focused and patient - especially in work zones. Keep in mind that even at a reduced speed limit of 55 mph, a vehicle travels 80 feet per second and can clear a football field in the time it takes to glance at a phone or a radio dial. Combine the speed factor with narrow, shifting lanes and the chances of a crash can dramatically increase.

Learn more about safe driving in work zones.

Any time people are working in a street or highway near traffic, drivers and workers are at risk:

  • Major road construction
  • Emergency vehicles at the side of the road
  • A snowplow flashing its warning lights
  • Everyday garbage pickup

In Wisconsin, they’re all work zones. Being able to identify the work zones up ahead can save lives. So, it's best to learn the signs of a work zone.

Any combination of orange barrels, orange signs, flags, flagging operations, workers, or flashing lights may be involved. You might also see utility, maintenance or emergency vehicles. Surefire details include "work ahead" signs and, of course, workers.

In Wisconsin, we take work zone safety seriously. The penalties for careless driving are steep.

  • It can cost you money. A normal speeding ticket can be expensive, but that’s nothing compared to traffic violations made in the zone. In a work zone, penalties are doubled - and fines usually increase every year.
  • It can cost you time. The consequences for injuring or killing someone in a work zone are especially serious. Careless drivers may face thousands of dollars in fines and up to 31/2 years in prison if they injure someone in a work zone. The fines for vehicular manslaughter are even higher, as are the prison terms - as many as 10 years. These punishments may increase if the driver was intoxicated or a repeat offender.
  • It can cost your life. The greatest cost of irresponsible driving isn’t calculated in dollars or years. Wisconsin sees nearly 2,000 work zone crashes a year. Sometimes, people die. And those tragedies change the lives of everyone left behind - workers, drivers and passengers, family and friends.

Did you know that tailgating is the most often cited factor in a work zone crash? Download WisDOT's "Drive Like You Work Here" fact sheet.  

Drivers are advised to "know before you go" by checking 511wi.gov before any road trip.