Michiganders like to joke that there are two seasons in the Great Lakes State: winter and construction. While it’s not 100 percent true, as the weather warms, work zones spring up on highways and in neighborhoods where improvements are needed most. DTE Energy is investing almost $4.2 billion in electric infrastructure upgrades over the next five years, in order to improve operational efficiency and meet customers’ growing power needs. Their work involves trimming trees, strengthening utility poles, and replacing overhead lines and underground cables.

Our utility crews are found all over Michigan. When you see their orange work zone signs roadside, it’s important that you are not only looking out for their safety, but yours too. In Michigan, work zone accidents have been on the rise over the last few years, sparking new debate and legislation. Follow these rules of the road to prevent injuries and save lives, so that our communities can continue working toward a greener energy future.

  1. In the event of downed power lines, keep your distance: Work crews use yellow barrier caution tape to clearly mark off known downed power line areas. Never cross that tape – even if you don’t immediately spot workers in the area. Customers should stay at least 20 feet away from work zones, and consider all lines active and extremely dangerous, even if they appear still. Never drive your vehicle over a downed power line.

    If there is metal fencing or collected water in the area, they may collect electrical currents from blocks away, so avoid them at all costs. If you suspect a downed line and see no crew or signage on-site, call DTE immediately at 800-477-4747 or contact us through the DTE Energy Mobile App.

  2. Drive defensively, both on and off the highway: The basics you learn in driving school are even more important when you’re approaching a work zone. Regardless if an emergency vehicle is present or not, move at least one lane over when you can, to give workers the space they need to finish their job. Drive at or under the speed limit (no higher than 45 miles per hour), and keep your eye on your surroundings to make sure no personnel are coming around the corner or crossing the road. Look for bright helmets and reflective jackets.
  3. Follow visual cues from safety crew “flaggers”: It’s important to pay attention to the road team’s instructions, especially if you’re used to taking the same routes every day. Flaggers will redirect you around the dangerous site, which may take you into other lanes, or even reroute you in a detour to another road. Obey their directions closely, and if there is no flagger, follow the pavement markings accordingly.

Regardless of the time of year, staying alert and minimizing distractions is the cardinal rule for protecting yourself and road crews. Be aware that traffic patterns can change day-by-day, and that you should expect the unexpected with workers, their vehicles, and equipment. For more information on what to do in the event of electric and natural gas emergencies, visit DTEEnergy.com. →

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