The Minnesota Department of Transportation observes National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 3-7, to encourage safe driving through highway work zones.

The week is an annual spring campaign to coincide with the start of road construction season. MnDOT will officially kick off the construction season April 13, although many construction projects are already under way.

The theme for the week is “Work Zone Safety is in Your Hands,” reinforcing the message that motorists should constantly be alert and prepared for expected changes in and around work zones.

More than 200 active work zones are scheduled throughout the state this construction season. A work zone is defined as any area where highway construction, maintenance or utility work is being done. Work zones are identified by warning signs, signals, barriers, pavement markings and flaggers.

Each year in Minnesota, an average of seven people die in work zone crashes and 753 fatal or serious injury crashes occur.

“Drivers and passengers are more likely to be killed in work zones than workers, but maintenance and construction crew workers have also lost their lives, been injured or had close calls,” said Jay Hietpas, Office of Traffic, Safety and Technology director. “Rear-end crashes are the most common type of work zone crash. Most of these crashes occur because of driver inattention and speeding, both behaviors we can change.”

Hietpas said MnDOT works to alert motorists in work zones and sets speeds that are safe for navigating through it. He said when entering work zones, motorists should obey the posted speed limits, pay attention to signs and flaggers, be patient and not drive distracted.

“These work zones exist because we’re making roads better and safer. We’re asking that people look for the work zones, slow down, and put down their cellphones and other distractions,” Hietpas said. “The website is a good resource to check for road closures, detours and traffic incidents.”

The National Work Zone Awareness Week observance is in cooperation with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Federal Highway Administration and the American Traffic Safety Services Foundation.