Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri LeBas last Thursday held a news conference on the front lawn of DOTD headquarters alongside a 609-cone memorial, honoring the number of lives lost nationwide in work zones in 2012.
"Tremendous progress has been made to improve safety on Louisiana's roadways, with an overall decrease statewide in motor vehicle fatalities from 993 in 2007 to 722 in 2012," LeBas said. "However, we still have a long way to go. I urge everyone to practice safe driving and remain cautious and focused behind the wheel, especially when driving through work zones."
Louisiana was just one of the states gearing up last week for events that promote National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), which starts today and runs through Friday, April 11.
NWZAW began in 1999 with a partnership between the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Federal Highway Administration and the American Traffic Safety Services Association to promote work-zone safety. Since then, state DOTs and transportation groups have joined the effort each April to reduce fatalities and promote safer driving practices. The national campaign's kick-off event will be hosted by the Washington State Department of Transportation and take place Tuesday, April 8 in Seattle.
Maryland State Highway Administrator (SHA) Melinda Peters and work-zone safety advocates stood together on Wednesday at the I-95 Improvement Project to stress the importance of work-zone safety. Also at the event was Laurie Moser, whose husband, Rick, was killed in a work zone in 2007 after 21 years at SHA.
"To honor Rick's memory and bring purpose to his untimely death, our family has chosen to spotlight his tombstone in orange to allow his voice to be heard, his story to be told and his unnecessary death to positively impact the lives of others," Moser said. "I ask Maryland drivers to join us in 'going orange' throughout April and encourage others to do so as well. As a result of this collective action, road safety awareness and education will escalate and, ultimately, lives will be saved."
Other state DOTs geared up for their own events, seeking to draw attention to work-zone safety. Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) is asking ODOT staff and industry partners to wear orange at next week's Transportation Commission meeting while also making the SkyDance Bridge in Oklahoma City orange on Monday for the cause. Alabama Department of Transportation is focusing on the theme "Work Zone Speeding: A Costly Mistake" through NWZAW, bringing attention to the various fines and jail time that accompany work-zone speeding. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is calling attention to some of the distracted driving behaviors taking place in work zones.
"It is not unusual for workers to see drivers with a cell phone to their ear, trying to maneuver through traffic cones and construction equipment," said AASHTO President and KYTC Secretary Mike Hancock in a statement. "We're asking drivers to consider work zones as 'no phone zones' in order to keep everyone safe on our roadways."
Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) reminded the public that work zones don’t always immediately look like work zones, so attention is needed at all times when driving.
"Not all work zones look alike," MoDOT State Maintenance Engineer Beth Wright said. "We remind motorists that work zones can be moving operations, such as striping, patching or mowing. They can also be short-term, temporary lane closures to make quick repairs or remove debris from the roadway."