When Hawaii passed its "Move Over" legislation in 2012, it became the 50th state to enact the law that requires motorists to slow down and move over a lane when passing through work zones where emergency and utility vehicles stopped on the side of the road with flashing lights on are present.

Yet only 71 percent of drivers are aware of such laws, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

That's why this week has been designated as National Work Zone Awareness Week.

Traffic-related incidents are the number one cause of death among on-duty law enforcement officers and utility workers, and the annual spring campaign held at the start of the construction season is aimed at encouraging safe driving through highway work zones.

"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, safety and technology director of the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety. "Most of these crashes occur because of driver in attention and speeding, both behaviors we can change."

Each year seven people die in work zone crashes and 753 serious injuries are reported in Minnesota each year, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

This year, there will be more than 200 active work zones in Minnesota. A work zone is defined as an area where highway construction or maintenance or utility work is being done.

In Minnesota, the state's Move Over law is named in honor of fallen state trooper Ted Foss. The law requires that drivers on a road with two or more lanes to keep one full lane away from stopped emergency vehicles with flashing lights activated. That includes ambulances, fire trucks, police cars and maintenance and construction vehicles.

If drivers can't move over to provide a one-lane buffer, they should reduce their speed to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. They also should be aware of changing conditions,pay attention to signs and flaggers and never be on a cellphone or using an electronic device that could distract them, Hietpas said.

The fine for disobeying the law can exceed $100.

But the price could be so much higher. "My only defense is a line of traffic cones," said 32-year MnDOT veteran Paul Bissen.

National Work Zone Awareness Week is an initiative of the NHTSA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the American Traffic Safety Services Foundation.

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