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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 6, 2004
Contact: Brian Keeter, 202-366-0660
FHWA 3-04

Drivers Urged To Make Highway Work Zones Safer

FHWA Administrator Sets up Office in Middle of Busy Interchange In Effort to Reduce Work Zone Injuries, Fatalities

The nation's chief highway official, likening roads to "offices" of highway workers, today set up her office in the middle of a busy interstate interchange to demonstrate the danger to drivers, passengers and workers from unsafe driving habits in highway work zones.

Work zone fatalities increased nationwide 53 percent from 1998 to 2002, according to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) data. Four out of five people killed were either drivers or passengers.

FHWA Administrator Mary Peters said a combination of government safety programs and safe-driving habits can significantly reduce the more than 52,000 injuries and fatalities that occur each year in highway work zones.

"Work zone accidents pose tremendous costs to our society," Peters said. "The human cost is the most tragic and the most critical. But there's also the economic cost that results from congestion, unexpected delays and delayed freight deliveries. Making work zones safer is part of the commitment by President Bush and Secretary Mineta to keep the American economy moving."

Peters kicked off Work Zone Awareness Week from her "outside" office near Interstate 95 in Springfield, Va., an area commonly referred to as the "mixing bowl" because of recent massive construction of the interchange.

"Safety is not a spectator sport," said Peters. "While government can and is doing a lot to make work zones safer, our highway crews need you to slow down and take simple but practical precautions. Drivers should remember that they and their passengers are also in danger from carelessness in work zones."

"I would like to ask motorists to please think twice before speeding through a work zone," said David Hamm, an employee with the Virginia Department of Transportation who witnessed a fatal work zone accident. "Think how you would feel if you lost someone close to you."

Peters offered 10 tips for driving safely in work zones including: expect the unexpected; slow down; don't tailgate; keep a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you; pay attention to the signs; obey road crew flaggers; stay alert and minimize distractions; keep up with traffic flow; schedule enough time to drive safely and check radio, TV and Web sites for traffic information; and be patient and stay calm.

The FHWA is working to improve work zone safety and mobility in partnership with industry, transportation associations and state departments of transportation. Peters said work zone safety solutions include more durable pavements, defensive work zones to protect workers and real-time information to travelers to plan alternative routes.

Work Zone Awareness Week is designed to bring attention to the problem of work zone safety and mobility. The kick-off event is co-sponsored by the FHWA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the American Traffic Safety Services Association, with the cooperation of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association and the Associated General Contractors.

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