The 11th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week began on April 19 and runs through April 23. Each year, this week marks the unofficial opening of the road construction season. And, while road work means jobs, we at DOT want it to also mean extra caution as drivers pass through areas of road construction.
We want it to mean drivers who pay extra attention, who stop texting and talking on cell phones, and who proceed carefully through work zones.
Our Federal Highway Administrator, Victor Mendez, was in downtown New York to launch the week's awareness campaign with New York City's DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and acting New York State DOT Commissioner Stanley Gee. Here is some of what he had to say:
This is one of the best times of the year. The winter blizzards are behind us. The baseball season is underway. And men and women all across the country are putting their hardhats on and returning to work as the road construction season begins.
Today, we're calling America’s attention to the need to keep these men and women safe as they work on our roads and bridges.
Our work zone safety record continues to improve. Work zone fatalities have fallen for six straight years to their lowest level since 1996. They’re down more than 30 percent since 2000.
But too many
families are still feeling the pain of work zone accidents. Nationwide,
720 people died in work zone accidents in 2008. And while that’s a 13% drop from the year before, it’s 720 too many.
Road workers hold signs to remind drivers and each other to "Take care out there."
What do these trends mean?
They mean we’re doing the right things to make our roads and work zones safer. They mean that--even as more work zones are springing up, thanks to the 9,000 Recovery Act projects underway--our efforts to protect drivers and workers are making a difference.
Having worked on road projects myself, I can tell you that many work zone accidents are caused by distracted driving. In fact, four out of every five victims of a work zone crash are motorists, not highway workers.
So, for their own sakes as well as others, drivers must learn to give work zones their undivided attention.
Work zones are constantly changing; as work is finished in one area it begins in another, often just down the road. This makes it even more important that drivers pay undivided attention to what they’re doing and make sure their eyes--and their minds--stay on the road.
But keeping our work zones safe is not just the driver’s responsibility. It’s a combined effort that includes the road crews themselves.
The FHWA has provided more than $17 million to develop and implement training programs for highway workers. We’ve worked with state and local governments and the transportation community to train more than 23,000 people on how to set up work zones, manage traffic flow, use new technology, and put up cones, drums and barriers.
All of this is saving lives. Still, we cannot--and will not--be satisfied until no one is dying on our roads and work zones.
So let’s welcome the new construction season with a new commitment to buckling our seat belts, turning off our cellphones, and keeping the men and women who work on our roads and bridges safe.