National work zone awareness week emphasizes safety

Approximately 1,100 orange cones lined the Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C. on April 8 as a memorial to lives lost in highway work zone accidents in 2002. The memorial was part of an opening event for “National Work Zone Awareness Week”. While some cones were wrapped with a yellow-green ribbon that signified a construction worker that was killed; most cones donned a black ribbon to commemorate lives of motorists killed on roadside construction sites.

Deaths that occurred in highway work zones increased to more than 1,000 in 2001, with an additional 37,000 injuries. According to Associated General Contractors CEO Stephen E. Sandherr, 80 percent of those fatalities were motorists, while 20 percent were construction workers.

“Making work zones safer is the responsibility of us all,” Sandherr told the audience at the event. “As motorists represent 80 percent of work zone fatalities, this year’s event is focused on motorist safety; however, it’s important to remember that the remaining 20 percent are construction workers who should be remembered and protected.”

As part of the work zone awareness week, which is designated as April 6-12, organizations including AGC and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association joined with officials from the Federal Highway Administration, legislators and celebrity spokesmen to emphasize the need for increased highway safety. Some of the speakers at the memorial event included U.S. Representative Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters Kentucky Secretary of Transportation James Codell, III, and Olympic Gold Medallist Dominique Dawes.

“Eight out of ten of those killed in roadway construction zones are motorists and some are young drivers,” Dawes said. “Many young people fail to realize that orange warning signs indicate hazards ahead and fail to slow down or become too distracted.”

Dawes will continue to spread the publicity for highway safety after the awareness week is over as a spokeswoman for the “Roadway Work Zone Safety Campaign for New Drivers” program, which will be officially launched this summer. The campaign includes a training video, CD-ROM and safety materials that will be distributed to drivers’ education programs across the country. The materials will provide new drivers with information about how to safely travel through roadway construction zones.

For more information about National Work Zone Awareness Week, visit http://wzsafety.tamu.edu. To learn more about the “Roadway Work Zone Safety Campaign for New Drivers,” go to www.artba.org.