GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - April marks the Mississippi Department of Transportation's Workzone Awareness Month.
There are many MDOT projects in progress around the Coast. Work is being completed on Highway 15, traffic signal upgrades in Ocean Springs and sand removal from Highway 90 in Gulfport.
With cars zipping by, it's dangerous work.
Kelly Castleberry with MDOT explained, "We've had incidences that occur on our work zones. We actually lost one of our fellow employees late last year in a work zone, traffic accident. A motorist left the roadway and struck him as they were working on a traffic signal," Castleberry recalled.
Speeding is an ever present threat for MDOT worker Vincent Necaise. "They probably do 15 to 20 miles over the speed limit and it's dangerous because that's a slower reaction time for a worker that's in the roadway doing work," he said.
Before any work begins, something happens first, according to Castleberry. He mentioned, "MDOT has a safety training program. We send all of our people through a traffic control school to where they look at how to set up traffic controls for these work operations."
Those operations lead to a feeling of family for these workers, despite the risks. That includes Brent Ladner. "It's a real strong community. We all come together, every time, especially Highway 90 when it gets bad. We all come together, gets together and try to knock it out," said Ladner.
There are many things that strike fear into those who work along our state's highways. Thin roads and shoulders, slick conditions, speeding.
Yet, nothing scares them more than a device you hold in your hands. "Oh, their cells phones. Texting and driving constantly, all the time," said MDOT worker Mary Necaise. She went on to add. "Lots of near misses. Didn't notice. Not paying attention to the road and such."
Employees say when you are behind the wheel, your main priority should be paying attention to the road and the workers.
If you need an extra incentive to drive safely in highway work zones, consider this: speeding fines are doubled in those areas when workers are present.