National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is an annual spring campaign held at the start of construction season encourages safe driving through highway work zones. The key message is for drivers to use extra caution in work zones.

NWZAW will be held April 26-30 this year and be hosted by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). Learn all about this year’s events and what the theme “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives.” means.

History of NWZAW

National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is an event that takes place across the United States, with partnerships between state departments of transportation (DOT), national road safety organizations, government agencies, private companies and individuals.

How did this work zone safety awareness campaign get started?

In 1997, a group of Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) staff members, located in southwestern Virginia, wanted to dedicate a week to raise awareness about work zone safety among all district employees before construction projects picked up during the warmer months. Following the successful promotion of this first event, VDOT brought the idea of raising awareness to other DOTs, and in 1999 the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) began its statewide public awareness campaign, “Slow for the Cone Zone.”

However, it was 1998 when VDOT first presented the idea to create a national campaign to ATSSA officials. In December of 1999, ATSSA approached the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to launch the first official NWZAW. They developed an agreement between the organizations, that outlined goals for NWZAW efforts:

  • Initiate efforts to raise awareness of the need for more caution when driving through work zones to decrease fatalities and injuries;
  • Establish and promote a uniform set of safety tips;
  • The value of training and importance of best practices in regard to work zone safety would be promoted among individuals in the private sector, industry, and roadway workers;
  • Reach out to both roadway workers and contractors to communicate possible effects of motorists’ behavior in response to traffic delays, and advise on what steps might possibly be taken to lessen negative behavior; and
  • Outreach efforts would be made to work with entities involved with work zone safety and to form partnerships.

The first official NWZAW kick-off event was held in 2000 in Springfield, Va. The site where the kick-off event is held now alternates each year from being hosted in the Washington, D.C., area to different locations across the United States. State transportation departments can submit applications to host the event on those alternate years.

Go Orange Day History

National Go Orange Day, designated to help raise work zone safety awareness, celebrates its sixth year on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. The event has become a staple of NWZAW and is a time for individuals and organizations across the country to express their support for work zone safety by wearing orange. In an effort to stop work zone crashes, this nationwide effort was first introduced by the FHWA as a new component of NWZAW in 2016. ATSSA has since organized and sponsored a social media campaign as part of its contribution to the effort. In 2016 about 100 organizations, including ATSSA members, from across the country posted images of various Go Orange Day efforts. ATSSA’s 2018 campaign demonstrated a global reach, with organizations from across the United States mentioning @ATSSAHQ on Twitter or @ATSSATraffic on Facebook and using #Orange4Safety in their social media posts and interactions.


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