As National Work Zone Awareness Week kicks off, I'm asking all drivers to protect America's road workers --this week and every week-- by driving carefully in work zones.
In 2011, 587 people died in highway work-zone fatalities. That's an increase of 11 fatalities compared to 2010, and it's 587 too many.
Here in Washington, DC, Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez marked National Work Zone Awareness Week by attending a local event honoring Alice Ward, a highway worker from Royersford, Pa., who nearly died when she was struck in a work zone last year. He also honored Laurie Moser, the widow of a highway worker killed in a work zone near Frederick, Md., in 2007.
As the weather gets warmer, highway construction shifts into high gear, and we see more and more orange cones on our roads. For those traveling or commuting by car, the appearance of new work zones is as much a milestone of spring as opening day in a local ballpark or the blossoming of tulip bulbs in a neighbor's garden.
The men and women working in these road construction zones are helping maintain and improve our highways and bridges to make travel smoother and safer for you, for your passengers, and for everyone who uses our roadways. They deserve to be able to do that work safely.
You might be surprised to learn, however, that more than four out of every five victims in work zone crashes are actually drivers and their passengers. Crashes can occur when drivers speed through a work zone or when they don't pay attention to changing road conditions.
That's why the theme of this year's Work Zone Awareness Week is "We're all in this together."
Administrator Mendez and Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.), the vice-chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, listening to Alice Ward, a highway worker who survived being struck by a car in January 2012
With President Obama’s new budget calling for a $40 billion “fix it first” investment, we're hoping to create more jobs and more work zones. And we want those work zones to be as safe as possible.
So FHWA is working with safety partners 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.
After all, as Administrator Mendez noted today, "Orange cones are replaceable. People are not."