U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today urged motorists to exercise caution and drive safely through work zones as the Department of Transportation joined its state, local and private sector partners to kick off the third annual National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 8-12.
The National Work Zone Memorial was unveiled at the event. This mobile memorial contains the names of persons killed in work zones and will be displayed at future highway safety events throughout the country. The kick-off event took place in a work zone where construction is taking place at an interchange along the Capital Beltway near Washington, DC.
"Motorists should exercise the utmost caution when they drive through highway construction zones, both for their own safety and for the safety of construction workers," Secretary Mineta said. "Safety is everyone's responsibility. The National Work Zone Memorial is a poignant reminder of the tragedy that results when we are not careful in work zones."
Over recent years, the number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in work zones has increased from 789 in 1995 to an all-time high of 1,093 in 2000. Each year, more than 80 percent of all fatalities in work zone crashes are motor vehicle occupants. In addition, more than 40,000 injuries occur in work zones each year.
Officials from the USDOT's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) were joined at the Maryland kick-off event by representatives from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), and many roadway safety and construction groups.
"To keep America moving, we continuously need to make repairs and improvements on our roads," FHWA Administrator Mary E. Peters said. "At the same time, we must go beyond our traditional approaches to improve both safety and mobility in work zones. Our surveys tell us people want us to think differently about how we do construction projects. We are examining all the processes that lead up to a project so we can make a substantial change in the impact of a work zone on travelers and workers and improve safety."
The FHWA asked motorists to observe the orange signs along roads that indicate work zones. The highway agency also offered the following "Safety Tips to Live By":
- Stay alert and give full attention to the roadway.
- Pay close attention to signs and work zone flaggers.
- Turn on headlights so workers and other drivers can see your vehicle.
- Do not tailgate.
- Do not speed. Slow down to the posted speed limits.
- Keep up with the traffic flow.
- Do not change lanes in work zones.
- Minimize distractions in vehicles. Avoid changing radio stations and using mobile phones in work zones.
- Expect the unexpected. Keep an eye on workers and their equipment.
- Be patient. Remember work zones are necessary to improve roads and make them safer.