MILWAUKEE — Cooler temperatures might have you thinking the end of construction season is near. But, officials with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) and members of law enforcement met this week to remind drivers to stay alert as work zones remain active.
"My wife's terrified," said Sam Martinez, a project construction leader currently working on the Vliet Street Reconstruction. "Every time I leave she's worried. I do my best to try and stay out of harm's way and try to stay behind some kind of traffic barrier if at all possible."
He knows the dangers of working behind the orange barrels all too well. He's also familiar with the streets of Milwaukee.
"I grew up on the South side, 25th and Mitchell," said Martinez.
He has worked in construction since 2009 and has lived here all his life. It's why he is part of the crew here working to raise awareness about work zone safety.
"I just want them to put themselves in our shoes, or even think about who's there. These workers could be related or friends with someone you know and if you end up hurting somebody or causing injury - how are you going to explain that to the people you know," he said.
Emlynn Grisar is the Deputy Director of WisDOT's Southeast Region.
"They are real people, with real families. It's not just equipment or orange barrels and flashing lights," Grisar said.
She pointed out how dangerous Wisconsin roads have been as of late.
"Last year alone, there were more than 2,000 work zone crashes in Wisconsin, leading to more than 650 injuries and unfortunately the 8 deaths," she said.
Milwaukee's Department of Public Works Commissioner, Jerrel Kruschke, echoes the call for safe driving, saying flashing lights and yellow and orange vests are not a fashion statement.
"Bright vest, orange construction traffic control, and advanced warning signs are not a suggestion, but a warning to drivers to please slow down," said Kruschke.
Police add that fines are increased in work zones and say it's up to drivers to act now to slow down and save lives.
"These construction workers are doing a job that benefits society and they deserve to be respected and protected. Their safety is paramount," said Capt. Jeffery Sunn, Milwaukee Police Department.
A call for work zone safety in a state where construction season isn't ending just because Summer is.
"Construction here is year-round," said Martinez.
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