Transportation officials urge motorists to slow down for safety

LAWRENCEVILLE - In Gwinnett, construction crews on the side of the road have become all too familiar a sight.

But as Work Zone Awareness Week ends, transportation officials want motorists to think twice and slow down when they see people working on the road.

"There is a lot of construction going on," Gwinnett Transportation Director Brian Allen said. "We would like people to be aware of work zones and the No. 1 thing is to slow down."

In the fall of 2004, two members of a Gwinnett DOT crew died after being struck by a vehicle.

"We have two families who are missing family members, and we don't want that to ever happen again if we can avoid it," he said.

According to Crystal Paulk-Buchanan of the Georgia Department of Transportation, three out of four fatalities in work zones are not workers but motorists. National statistics reveal that 1,000 motorists die and 40,000 are injured each year in work zones.

Since 1973, 56 Georgia DOT workers have been killed, and in 2005, 61 total fatalities occurred in a work zone.

"It's important now that the weather begins to warm. We are approaching the construction season," Paulk-Buchanan said. "We try to reduce the burden. We work mostly on weekends and overnight, but because it is over night, there is less visibility."

The Georgia DOT has taken extra precautions on two major work zones in Gwinnett.

Speed limits have been reduced to 55 miles per hour on Interstate 85 and 45 mph on Ga. Highway 316, where work is under way on a major reconstruction of the interchange. The speed limit was also reduced to 35 mph on a stretch of Grayson Highway, where the road is being widened.

Paulk-Buchanan pointed out that speeding fines double in a work zone.