With the more than 55% increase in work-zone fatalities between 1997 and 2001 in mind, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta marked the fourth annual National Work Zone Awareness Week by urging motorists to exercise greater caution and drive safely through work zones.
"The Bush administration is committed to improving safety on our nation’s highways, and this campaign helps alert motorists to drive carefully through highway construction zones," Mineta said at the kick-off event yesterday in Washington, D.C. "We can improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and construction workers by exercising caution and following good safety practices in highway work zones."
In 2001, the latest year for which this information is available, 1,079 people were killed in work-zone-related crashes. Four out of five of them were motorists.
At the event in Freedom Plaza, a display of 1,000 orange work-zone cones honored work-zone crash victims. The cones were draped with either a black ribbon for a motorist who was killed or a fluorescent yellow-green ribbon for a construction worker who was killed.
In addition to officials from the U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), representatives of the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials, the American Traffic Safety Services Association, the America Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and numerous other road safety and construction groups participated in the event.
Olympic champion gymnast Dominique Dawes spoke to focus attention on public safety: "Many young people fail to realize that orange warning signs indicate hazards ahead and fail to slow down or become too distracted. A great tragedy occurs when so many young lives are needlessly cut short and young men and women do not get a chance to achieve their goals and dreams."
Dawes is a spokesperson for the "Roadway Work Zone Safety Campaign for New Drivers," sponsored by the FHWA and conducted by ARTBA in conjunction with the National Safety Council and other partner organizations.