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State transportation officials are reminding motorists to drive carefully this construction season to protect highway workers and to avoid distractions while operating their vehicles.

To emphasize the effort, they are asking the media to wear orange Wednesday to remind drivers for the need for safety. Wednesday is Go Orange Day 2019 and all roadway safety professionals are asked to wear the color to show support for work zone safety.

The day is part of National Work Zone Awareness Week, a campaign held annually at the start of road construction season that aims to encourage safe driving through highway work zones. The first National Work Zone Awareness Week was held in 2000. This year, the week runs April 8-12.

Michigan Department of Transportation officials first mentioned this year's effort about three weeks ago during a news conference about the start of work to upgrade 25 miles of Interstate 94 in Detroit and Wayne County.

MoreBig backups likely as MDOT upgrades I-94 from Conner to I-275

"Every time motorists drive through a work zone, they're driving by a father, a mother, a brother, a sister or a neighbor," Davis Woo, a MDOT work zone safety technical specialist said during the news conference. "That's their office, and we want drivers to think about that. That's why this year's slogan is: 'Drive like you work here.'"

Officials said 35 people were killed and 1,972 were injured last year in crashes in Michigan construction zones last year.

The effort comes during Distracted Driving Awareness Month and a statewide push to encourage drivers to put distractions aside and concentrate on the road.

There was a 57 percent increase in distracted driving crashes in Michigan in 2017 and  a 67 percent increase in fatalities, according to the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center.

The National Safety Council says that every day, on average, nine Americans die and 100 are injured in crashes caused by motorists' inattention. In 2017, there were 20,115 crashes in Michigan involving distracted driving, and 72 fatalities, according to the state police's CJIC. In 2016, there were 12,788 distracted driving crashes and 43 fatalities. 

The week of April 11, law enforcement agencies across the state will be mobilizing to target distracted drivers.

cramirez@detroitnews.com
Twitter: @CharlesERamirez

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