NWZAW is an annual spring campaign scheduled to coordinate with the start of road and highway construction season, and it encourages safe driving through road and highway work zones.
While most of those working along roadsides and highways are construction workers, the week is also important to many thousands of utility employees who work on distribution lines and related electrical equipment on or near roads and highways.
The campaign was launched in 1997 by the Virginia Department of Transportation, Richmond, Va., and has been held every year since then (with the exception of 2020, when it was suspended due to pandemic concerns).
Each year, interest in the campaign has grown, to the point where, in 1999, the American Traffic Safety Services Association, Fredericksburg, Va.; the Federal Highway Administration; and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, Washington, D.C., became involved, helping it become a national event.
In addition to these national organizations, a number of state departments of transportation are actively involved, as are a number of national non-governmental organizations, such as the Center for Construction Research and Training in Silver Spring, Md.
In 2016, a new feature was added to the campaign—Go Orange Day, which designates Wednesdays within the NWZAW as a day when workers are encouraged to wear orange while working to show their support for roadway safety.
A further addition to the campaign was the creation of the American Traffic Safety Services Foundation, a nonprofit based in Fredericksburg, Va., that supports the loved ones of those impacted by work zone incidents.
In addition, the National Work Zone Memorial was created, which lists the names of those individuals who have been killed in work zone tragedies. To date, there are over 1,500 names on the memorial. The virtual memorial is available online while the physical memorial travels around the nation.
Besides trying to get the word out to the general public about the importance of driving safely in work zones, the NWZAW campaign also communicates with contractors and their employees to explain the possible effects of motorists’ behavior in response to traffic delays, and steps that can be taken to lessen any related negative behavior on the part of the motorists.
This year’s NWZAW is being hosted by the Michigan Department of Transportation, Lansing, Mich., and the theme this year is “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives.”
For more information on National Work Zone Awareness Week 2021, please visit: