Give 'Em a Break and Drive Safe Over Construction Season

It’s that time of year again – the one referenced in the saying about two seasons in Wisconsin - winter or road construction.  Since we've broken the 70 degree mark on the outdoor thermostat, it should be safe to say winter is in our rear view mirror. But look what is ahead – construction season. 

The signs of the season are everywhere.  In our area, the U.S. 41 Project redoing the roadway spans over 17 miles of highway between Oshkosh and Green Bay.

Just like winter driving has its risks so does construction season driving.  Work zones increase your crash risk; traffic patterns change, sudden stops occur, narrow lanes barely fit your vehicle and don’t forget the aggressive drivers running behind schedule. 

You might be surprised to learn that 80-85% of work zone fatal crash victims are the driver or passengers in a vehicle.  Heeding the slogan “Give ‘em a Brake” could save your life in addition to the life of a construction zone worker. 

At the Trauma Center at Theda Clark Medical Center, almost half of our trauma cases involve a crash. As a regional trauma center, we see the critically injured patients.  We see what could have been prevented with just a little extra care.  Around Wisconsin traffic fatalities are up 43 percent compared to last year at this time.  Why?

Data shows that most crashes occur on sunny, clear, dry days – I wonder if we’re just enjoying the ride, contemplating our next stop, just not focusing on our task at hand.  Imagine processing a mind boggling 1,320 pieces of information every minute; the average driver does that routinely.  They also look away from the road every 3.4 seconds and typically search for something in their car 10.8 times per hour.  And don’t forget the cell phone; it’s a virtual tap on the shoulder every time it dings or rings.  The perception about teens being connected to their phones may be true, but it is truly amazing to discover that adults, age 25-39, text while driving more than other age group. 

We need to stop. How many near misses will it take before we devote that extra attention to living and being actively engaged in the task at hand? Studies show and have shown that driving aggressively saves only 1 minute on a 27-mile trip while increasing crash risk and wasting gas.  One minute. 

Please plan ahead, expect delays, be patient. Don’t be tempted to cut corners – turn your cell phone off or even put it in the trunk.  Please pay attention to lane modifications and stay within the posted speed limit.  Just drive – because it only takes one time. 'Give ‘em' and yourself a brake. 

Raymond Georgen, MDDr. Ray Georgen is the director of trauma at the Trauma Center at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah.  The Trauma Center hosts the P.A.R.T.Y. at the PAC program each year, educating nearly 40,000 teens in alcohol and destructive decision prevention since 1998.