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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Office of the Secretary, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, DC 20590

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 9, 2001
Contacts:
FHWA, Wally Weart (202) 336-4013
AASHTO, Jennifer Gavin (202) 624-3690
ATSSA, James Baron, (800) 272-8772, ext. 113
FHWA 16-01

Transportation Partners Kick-Off Second Annual Work Zone Awareness Event To Promote Highway Construction Safety

With the beginning of the second annual National Work Zone Awareness Week and the start of another season of highway construction, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta today urged motorists to exercise caution and drive safely through work zones.

In 1999, the latest year for which this information is available, 868 people were killed in work-zone-related crashes. The Second Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week kick-off event today in Washington, D.C., featured a field of 868 orange traffic cones topped with black memorial ribbons to help commemorate those who died. National Work Zone Awareness Week is April 9-12.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), as well as numerous roadway safety and construction groups participated in the kick-off event launching National Work Zone Awareness Week today at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

"Motorists should drive carefully through highway construction zones both for their own safety and the safety of construction workers," Secretary Mineta said. "Safety is everyone's responsibility, and I especially commend our partners for their efforts in helping everyone become aware of the need to exercise caution in highway work zones."

"To enhance safety and mobility, repairs and improvements are needed on our country's roadways," said Vincent Schimmoller, FHWA Deputy Executive Director. "This means more work zones, more delays and more traveler frustration. This calls for patience and planning ahead by motorists."

Over the last five years the number of persons killed in motor vehicle crashes in work zones has gone from 789 in 1995 to a high of 868 in 1999. In addition there was an average of more than 40,000 injuries each year.

"Work zones are tangible evidence that America takes care of its infrastructure," said AASHTO President E. Dean Carlson. "However, we are also asking Americans to take care of themselves, and their passengers and the hard-working folks who keep us moving by focusing on the special situations work zones represent. Be alert - your life is as much at stake as the lives of the people behind the cones."

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.
  • 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.

"Drivers for the most part still view work zones as an inconvenience during their daily commute or travel. I believe they are now beginning to see work zones are essential to build safer roads to save lives. Most importantly, I sincerely hope that what is accomplished on April 9 at the memorial event will help bring some closure to the families of those killed and injured in work zones," said Dennis "Chip" Sterndahl, President, American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA).

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