BALTIMORE (WJZ)– There may be more orange cones on your daily commute, as Maryland digs into one of the busiest construction seasons on record.
Highway safety officials are reminding drivers to pay attention in work zones.
April is Work Zone Safety Awareness Month, and with hundreds of projects underway all over the state, officials hope driving this message home now sets Maryland up for a safe summer.
Orange cones and barrels are popping up on Maryland roads in record numbers.
Construction season is kicking off with $3.7 billion in active projects at more than 500 sites statewide.
“These are important projects to make our system safer, to relieve some of the congestion that we’re seeing, and to keep it in great condition so we can keep Maryland moving,” MDSHA administrator Greg Slater said.
One of them is the $7.3 million replacement of the Mt. Caramel Bridge, soon opening to traffic over I-83.
For this project, the State rented a temporary bridge just to separate construction crews from speeding traffic.
“Believe it or not, we have just as many accidents at low speeds as we do at high speeds,” said Henry Alfred, chief of Occupational Safety and Health.
Those like Alfred, whose office is the open road, say more projects this year shouldn’t mean more risk, but distracted and speeding drivers trigger high anxiety.
“We are afraid for everybody everyday and we are planning for everybody everyday. And we really need to get this word out that people need to take this serious,” he said.
Over the last six years, more than 50 people died in Maryland work zone crashes. Fourteen of them occurred last year.
“When you see the orange signs advising a work zone ahead, motorists should automatically respond by reducing their speed and preparing for the unexpected,” said 1st Sgt. Colin Bristowe of the Maryland State Police.
Most people killed in work zone crashes are actually drivers or passengers.
The State Highway administration is also debuting a new app, Road Ready, that will route drivers around construction zones.