VDOT warns speeders as roadwork season begins

BRISTOL, Va. - If you speed through a work zone you could pay a hefty price -- it's Work Zone Awareness Week for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

News 5 found out the department is emphasizing the potential costs of speeding during the busy road construction season.

According to VDOT, there were 21 fatalities across the Commonwealth last year that involved work zone crashes. "April marks the start of construction season, so you're going to see so many more work zones. They pop up daily," said Michelle Earl, VDOT spokesperson.

Earl says distracted and reckless drivers pose the greatest threat to road workers. "We'd ask people to lower their speeds, and really pay attention to those work zone speed limit signs. They are enforceable and police are out there monitoring them," said Earl.

If you get caught you could have to pay a $500 fine; even worse, speeding in a work zone could cost a worker his or her life. "There were two highway workers of those 21 people, and both of those unfortunately were in a local accident in Smyth County," said Earl.

Trevor Blankenship was one the workers killed in the September accident. His name is printed on hard hats worn by construction and road workers to keep his memory alive and to serve as reminder of roadway safety for workers like Joel Collins. "You have to have eyes in the back of your head. Everybody is in a hurry and they really don't want to stop, if you need them to stop," said Joel Collins, local contract worker.

Collins tells News 5 safety simply saves lives. "You have to watch the signs and please obey them. And take care of yourself and us. You know these guys work hard out here," said Collins.

According to VDOT, 130 road workers died in work zone related-accidents across the nation in 2012.

Work Zone Awareness Week started in Bristol and is now a nationwide campaign.

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