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U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., www.dot.gov/affairs/briefing.htm - News

FHWA 07-10Contact: Doug Hecox
Monday, April 19, 2010Phone: 202-366-0660

U.S. Transportation Secretary Urges Safe Driving During Upcoming Construction Season
11th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week to Build on Gains Made Over Last Six Years

NEW YORK -- In recognition of National Work Zone Awareness Week, the ceremonial start to highway construction season, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today urged drivers to use extra caution while driving through work zones this summer and lauded historic lows in highway fatalities.

"As Recovery Act funds strengthen our economy and put people back to work, I urge drivers to continue paying special attention while driving through road construction," said Secretary LaHood. "With increased activity as a result of the Recovery Act, drivers need to pay attention, stop texting and talking on their phones, and proceed with caution when behind the wheel. Road workers need safe drivers to help make safe roads."

USDOT recently announced that overall roadway fatalities in 2009 - 33,963 - fell by nearly nine percent from 2008 to their lowest level since 1954. Highway work zone fatalities have fallen each of the last six years to the lowest level since 1996, even with the addition of thousands of new highway projects as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Overall work zone fatalities and injuries have fallen by 30 percent since 2000. Work zone fatalities dropped by more than 13 percent from 831 in 2007 to 720 in 2008 - the most recent year for which data are available.

Four of every five victims in a work zone crash are motorists, not highway workers, which is why it is particularly important for drivers to remain alert while driving through work zones. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has taken steps in the past several years to improve work zone design, strengthen enforcement near work zones, and heighten awareness among drivers for bringing the number of work zone fatalities to record lows.

Since 2005, FHWA has:

  • provided more than $17 million for work zone training and guidance;
  • trained more than 23,000 highway workers throughout the nation;
  • invested $3.5 million in the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, a comprehensive online repository of information designed to help improve work zone safety; and
  • issued new federal rules requiring the use of high-visibility clothing for roadway workers.

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez kicked off the 11th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week today at a road construction site near the Staten Island Ferry terminal in New York City.

"Despite increased highway construction and repair work in each state and increases in traffic volume, roadway fatalities continue to fall - especially in work zones," said Administrator Mendez. "These trends tell us we're making good progress, but we are also counting on drivers to give road workers their undivided attention as they strive to make highways safer for everyone."

National Work Zone Awareness Week is an annual campaign held at the start of construction season to encourage safe driving through highway construction sites. It is observed across the country by state, local and federal transportation officials in April, the start of highway construction season across most of the country.

"New York State is pleased to be partnering with FHWA to launch this year's national work zone awareness campaign," said New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Stanley Gee. "With Governor Paterson's support, the New York State DOT of Transportation continues to target the need for safety in our highway construction and maintenance work zones. This is more than a week-long campaign. Driving safety, especially in work zones, should be on our minds every day of the year."

For more information on National Work Zone Awareness Week, visit http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/outreach/wz_awareness.htm.

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