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Remarks by Victor Mendez, Administrator
FHWA National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week
Washington, DC

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 10 AM

We’re proud to join our partners in kicking off National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week.

I’ve been part of these events for many years, not only as Administrator, but from my days heading the Arizona Department of Transportation.

I have the greatest respect for the men and women who build our roads and bridges. I meet with them every time I visit a project. I see their pride in the work they’re doing for the people and businesses of this country.

So it’s important to me both personally and professionally that we keep them safe.

We also want to protect the drivers and passengers who drive through work zones and actually account for 4 out of every 5 victims of work zone crashes.

And we want to protect the men and women who drive big trucks and keep our economy moving. We’re pleased to have our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as a partner in this effort.

So as this year’s theme suggests, we’re all in this together when it comes to making work zones safer.

The latest data show a slight increase in work zone deaths. And while we certainly don’t like to see that, we have to remember that we’ve made significant progress in reducing work zone fatalities over the past ten years.

But if you lost a loved one or were injured on a job site – like our guests here today – that progress means little.

Their view is the same as ours -- that even one death is one too many. After all, orange cones are replaceable. People are not.

And so FHWA is working with partners all across the country to promote new ideas in work zone planning and design, improve training for workers and law enforcement, and remind the public to slow down and pay extra attention in work zones.

With the start of a new construction season, we hope to see people working on job sites all over America.

We have a new transportation bill that’s going to fund projects across the country.

And President Obama’s new budget calls for a $40 billion investment called “fix it first” to put people to work repairing the roads, bridges, transit systems and airports in greatest need of repair.

We want to create more jobs and more work zones. And we want those work zones to be as safe as possible.

Work zones are part of DOT’s larger focus on safety, which is our Number One priority.

The Secretary has worked extremely hard to address the dangers of distracted driving.

Trying to drive while you’re talking on the phone or texting is dangerous under any circumstances. But it’s especially dangerous in a work zone.

The District of Columbia joins 39 states in banning texting behind the wheel. We need every state to follow that lead.

So let me remind you that whenever you get behind the wheel -- but especially when you’re driving through a work zone -- to buckle your seat belt, put away your cell phone and drive safely.

I now have the pleasure of closing my remarks with a presentation.

A few years ago, we started awarding a trophy to the DOT that hosted our annual work zone event and helped us spread our safety message.

No, the trophy isn’t as famous as the Heisman Trophy or the Stanley Cup.

But it recognizes the hard work that goes into an event like this and the contribution to making work zones safer.

So it’s my pleasure to present this year’s trophy to Terry Bellamy of DDOT.

Thank you, Terry, for being a great host. And most of all, thank you for helping us send the message that people need to slow down and pay extra attention when they drive through work zones.

We’ve also started holding a competition to see who’s going to host the next year’s event. We had a lot of interesting entries to choose from.

I’m pleased to announce that next April we’ll be out in Seattle joining the folks at the Washington State DOT in raising awareness to work zone safety.

Congratulations, Washington State!

Thank you all very much!

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Page last modified on April 16, 2013.
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