No one knows how many work zone crashes are caused by young, inexperienced drivers, but certainly that is the case in more than a few situations. Not only are new drivers easily distracted, they also are not used to the complex and diverse set of dangers that present itself in and around work zones.

In addition to themselves and their passengers, these drivers place flaggers and other work zone Laborers at risk.

In an effort to improve work zone safety awareness among new drivers, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration, worked with the National Safety Council and a variety of other partners to develop Turning Point: Roadway Work Zone Safety for New Drivers.

This four-part safety program is an innovative approach to driver training for new drivers. Significant consideration has been devoted to the thought-processes, habits and motivations of teens.

One part is a short video introduced by U.S. Olympian Dominique Dawes that features teenagers who suffered irreparable loss in work zone accidents. It stresses the point: “Some Decisions Will Last a Lifetime.” It offers a five-point safety message:

  • Know the Work Zone Signs.
  • Pay Attention to Other Drivers.
  • Stay Focused. Avoid Distraction.
  • Expect the Unexpected.
  • Keep Your Cool. Be Patient.

Part two is a resources CD that includes sample public service announcement (PSAs), and part three is a toolkit for driver trainers.

The fourth part is a computer simulation that puts the teen driver behind the wheel as the car moves through various work zones. In addition to the view out the front window, the driver can see out the rear-view mirror and the side-view mirror and can observe the speedometer. Meanwhile, action unfolds in and around the work zone. Then, the movement pauses, and the trainee is asked to circle the hazards of the moment. After a quick grade (“good job,” “you missed one,” etc.), the ride continues and the driver sees how the dangers unfold.

A half-hour or hour in this simulator should raise any teen driver’s consciousness of the dangers of work zones and the need to be alert.

More information about the program is available at the Turning Point website or from Jim Childers at ARTBA (202-289-4434).