PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) kicking off its busiest construction season ever, officials are reminding everyone to drive safely in and around work zones.
RIDOT Director Peter Alviti highlighted the importance of adhering to warnings listed on work zone construction signs at an event kicking off National Work Zone Awareness Week.
“When you see those flashing lights, those work ahead signs, your immediate reaction should be caution. Those are real human beings working on the road,” Alviti said. “At that point, it’s your job to protect them. Back off the accelerator, move over if possible. You could save a life.”
Alviti shared the story of Joe Molis, a RIDOT engineer who was seriously injured when an allegedly drunk driver crashed into his truck on the Route 10 Interchange in Cranston last January.
“We hear countless stories of people speeding through work zones, driving impaired, distracted or in some other reckless manner without regard for the safety of others,” Alviti said. “Unfortunately for Joe, this wasn’t just another near miss.”
Alviti said Molis is still recovering and could not attend the event due to the severity of his injuries.
In a message read by Alviti at the event, Molis said he’s been on dozens of work sites and always thought he’d be hit while on the highway, not on a road where the speed limit is 25 mph.
“People need to open their eyes, pay attention and slow down. It’s really no more than a few moments, a second or two off your trip, to slow down in a work zone,” Molis said. “Everybody out there has a family. Everybody deserves to get home safely.”
In 2018, Rhode Island saw 22 work zone injuries. Annually, more than 700 people die in work zone-related accidents and more than 25,000 are injured nationwide.
“The key message is that, as a driver, you must use extra caution in work zones to keep yourself and others safe. In short: Drive like you work here,” Carlos Machado, with the Federal Highway Administration said.
Rhode Island State Police also reminded everyone of the “Move Over” law, which requires drivers to slow down and move over for construction crews and emergency vehicles.