First you see the warning signs, "Road Work Ahead." Then the orange cones. And then the orange vests of the crews who are grading, paving, and installing safety features on your road. These men and women are working hard maintaining, repairing, and upgrading America's highways in all kinds of weather; they deserve our respect and courtesy.
And the best way to show them our respect is to drive safely when traveling through their work zones.
Yesterday, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez kicked off the 12th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week, which runs through this Friday. As spring rolls in and the highway construction season ramps up, this special week is observed across the country by state, local and federal transportation officials. I thank them for their efforts, and I hope everyone gets their important message.
Last Friday, I announced that in 2010 the number of traffic fatalities in America fell to their lowest levels since 1949. But we still have more than 30,000 people dying on our nation’s roads each year. We will keep working to push that number down, and that includes the number of deaths in our work zones.
Let me repeat that--more than four out of every five victims in a work zone crash are drivers or passengers, which is why it is particularly important for drivers to remain alert while driving through these zones.
The professionals of our Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are involved in a number of partnerships and programs to make work zones safer for everyone through engineering, education and training. They work with state and local governments and the transportation community to train people in how to set up work zones, manage traffic flow and use new technology. FHWA has also made an additional $4.6 million investment in the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, a comprehensive online information source to improve work zone safety.
But America's drivers can make the biggest difference. Road workers are doing their part to build and improve the roads and bridges we all depend on, so please, let’s keep them safe by driving carefully.