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Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters
Remarks as prepared for delivery
4th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week
April 8, 2003, Washington, DC

Norman Mineta, our Secretary of Transportation, has said, "Safety is the number one transportation priority of the Bush Administration and a job that is never finished." The Administration is committed to raising the bar on safety and the Federal Highway Administration is just as committed as the Secretary to dramatically improving safety on our highways.

We've wracked our brains over the years for powerful ways to reach people, to make them understand it's dangerous in work zones . . . if you're not alert. Or if you're going too fast. The field of orange traffic cones is the best idea we've had. There are a thousand cones set up. There were more than a thousand work zone fatalities in 2001. That's a 55 percent increase from 1997.

Each cone represents a preventable death in a work zone -- about 150 cones remind us of husbands, wives, sons, and daughters who were working to improve our roads. Most of the cones, the ones with black sleeves, are a reminder for the rest of us, motorists just driving through until something goes terribly wrong. More than eighty percent of people killed in a work zone are drivers or occupants. And we must not forget the more than 40,000 injured in work zones, whose lives will never be the same.

So if you remember nothing else, remember these two things:

Drivers are the most frequent fatality in work zone crashes.

Rear-end crashes -- running into the rear of a slowing or stopping vehicle -- are the most common type of work zone crash.

Why should we remember? This summer we will see more work zones than ever. Nearly 13 percent of the National Highway System is under construction at any time during the peak summer roadwork season, roughly April until the snow flies. Large parts of our Interstate system are almost 50 years old. Many other roads and bridges are wearing out. Construction is needed to keep our highways in top condition and to protect the mobility of the American people.

FHWA is working in partnership with industry, with transportation associations, with other groups here this morning, and with government -- particularly state DOTs.

We want to:

  • Move strongly toward a commitment to life-cycle cost analysis to evaluate project options and the use of long-life pavement to reduce frequency of repairs.

  • Plan and design projects to get in, get out, and stay out.

  • Identify and promote the use of work zone best practices.

  • Tell travelers what to expect far enough in advance so they can plan an alternative route.

  • Design defensive work zones to protect workers from motorists.

  • Encourage use of total road closures where appropriate. Total closure is proving to be an effective way to complete projects faster and improve safety for highway workers and motorists.

Our work zone awareness partnership needs your support. With thousands of work zones in place across America every day, we call on everyone to make work zones better and safer. Mobility and safety go hand in hand.

When roadwork is complete, all of us benefit from safer roads and fewer delays.

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