DOT: Be mindful of construction zones

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Updated Apr 5, 2011

With road work beginning to resume on America’s highways and bridges, the U.S. Department of Transportation on Monday, April 4, called on drivers to use extra caution in work zones and commended the success in reducing overall roadway fatalities in each of the last seven years.

“As spring weather returns, orange signs, vests and cones will return along America’s highways, requiring drivers to be alert and careful through highway work zones,” says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Road workers are doing their part to build and improve the roads and bridges we all depend on, so let’s keep them safe by obeying posted speed limits and putting cell phones away.”

In 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, highway work-zone fatalities fell to the lowest level since 1992, despite the presence of thousands of new highway projects made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Work zone fatalities fell each year between 2002 and 2009 and dropped by more than 7 percent from 720 in 2008 to 667 in 2009. Overall work zone fatalities and injuries have fallen by 35 percent since 2000.

More than four of every five victims in a work zone crash are motorists, which is why it is particularly important for drivers to remain alert while driving through work zones. The Federal Highway Administration has taken steps in the past several years to improve work zone design, increase training, strengthen law enforcement near work zones and heighten awareness among drivers, which have helped reduce the number of work zone fatalities to record lows.

Since 2005, FHWA has trained more than 46,000 highway workers across the country and invested more than $17 million for work zone training and guidance. FHWA has made an additional $4.6 million investment in the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, a comprehensive online repository of information designed to improve work zone safety.

Over the last seven years, the agency also has issued four new federal rules to improve work zone safety, including one requiring the use of high-visibility clothing for roadway workers and another to improve the design of highway work areas to make them safer for workers and easier to drive through.

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez kicked off the 12th annual National Work Zone Awareness Week on Monday, April 4, at a road construction site near the new Intercounty Connector in Beltsville, Md. National Work Zone Awareness Week is an annual campaign held at the start of construction season to encourage safe driving through highway construction sites. It is observed across the country by state, local and federal transportation officials in April, the start of highway construction season across most of the country.

“Despite increases in traffic and highway construction and repair work in each state, roadway safety is increasing, and work zone fatalities are falling,” said Mendez. “We are making progress, but we need drivers to stay alert and pay attention to road workers, and to each other, in order to continue making highways safer.”