U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is urging people to drive carefully in highway work zones as the start of construction season begins in many states, putting more highway workers and drivers in close proximity. In 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, 609 people died in highway work zone crashes – an increase of 19 fatalities compared to 2011.
"As the construction season starts, we need to be mindful of workers and anyone else traveling through work zones by slowing down, paying attention, and driving safely," said Secretary Foxx. "Speeding in work zones is against the law and puts those who work there – as well as those who drive there – in danger."
National Work Zone Awareness Week, sponsored by federal, state and local transportation officials each April, draws attention to the safety needs of road workers during construction season. Generally, crashes occur when drivers speed through a work zone, do not pay attention to changing road conditions, run into other vehicles or highway equipment, or drive off the road completely. In 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, speeding was a factor in more than 35 percent of fatal work zone crashes. Nearly four in five victims in work zone crashes are not highway workers, but drivers and their passengers.
The FHWA works with state and local transportation officials and industry groups to promote improvements in work zone planning and design, increased law enforcement near work zones, enhanced worker training and heightened awareness among drivers. Over the last decade, FHWA awarded nearly $33 million in grants to promote work zone safety training and the National Work Zone Safety Clearinghouse.
"Many sections of our nation’s roads will be busy with workers and drivers in the coming months as construction activity picks up," said FHWA Deputy Administrator Nadeau. "By following the rules of the road in work zones, we can keep people safe during National Work Zone Awareness Week and all year long."
Like the FHWA, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration works with other USDOT agencies to reduce work zone incidents through educational exchanges, grants to states and intensive research on driver behavior. FMCSA has made work zone safety a national priority in its commercial vehicle safety plans and partners with the International Association of Chiefs of Police in their Drive to Save Lives Campaign by encouraging comprehensive traffic enforcement so that all law enforcement stop trucks and buses when they are observed operating unsafely.
"I challenge commercial truck and bus drivers to be especially vigilant whenever they encounter a work zone," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "In 2012, 132 fatal crashes occurred in work zones involving large trucks and buses. With every driver being alert and focused on safety at all times, crashes can be avoided and lives will be saved."
Federal Highway Deputy Administrator Greg Nadeau and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Assistant Administrator and Chief Safety Officer Jack Van Steenburg today helped kick off this year’s observance at the SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement project in downtown Seattle. They were joined by Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Secretary Lynn Peterson and workers and families affected by work zone accidents. During the ceremony, Deputy Administrator Nadeau paid tribute to the 59 WSDOT employees who died in work-zone related activities since 1950.