UPDATE: A video of the event is now available.

NEWS RELEASE

Contact: Maria Robertson

ATSSA Director of Marketing & Communications

communications@atssa.com

 

Fourteen workers honored at NWZAW national kickoff

National Work Zone Awareness Week event highlights dangers workers face

BALTIMORE, Md. (April 16, 2024) – With the recent tragedy at the Francis Scott Key Bridge fresh on everyone’s mind, today’s national kickoff for National Work Zone Awareness Week took on an especially somber tone.

Six workers who had been working on the bridge lost their lives when a cargo ship crashed into the bridge shortly before 1:30 a.m. on March 26, plunging them into the wreckage as the bridge quickly collapsed.

Those six men were among 14 people honored at today’s ceremony, which serves to remind the motoring public of the importance of being alert and attentive as they approach and pass roadway work zones.

Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Paul Wiedefeld recited details of the 14 deaths before asking for a moment of silence in honor of each life lost.

“Each incident is unique but they all remind me of the challenges each of our workers face each and every day,” he said.

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Associate Administrator for Operations Martin Knopp said the incidents serve as “tragic reminders that highway construction workers are the unsung heroes of our transportation system.”

National Work Zone Awareness Week started on Monday and runs through Friday with a special focus for each day, including Go Orange Day on Wednesday and a nationwide moment of silence on Friday to remember workers who have died over the years.

This year’s theme is: Work zones are temporary. Actions behind the wheel can last forever.

In 2022, 891 people were killed in roadway work zones across the country, including 742 drivers and their passengers and 145 pedestrians and bicyclists, according to the most recent data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows 94 workers were killed in roadway construction sites in 2022.

Maryland officials gathered today for a noontime ceremony hosted by MDOT. The event was held on Interstate 70 overlooking the spot along Interstate 695 where six roadway workers were killed on March 22, 2023. Two drivers were charged with multiple crimes after the crash that instantly killed one woman and five men—two of whom were brothers and two others who were a father and son.

An orange cone with black ribbon was placed at the scene for each of the 13 men and one woman killed in the latest work zone tragedies in Maryland. In addition to the six people lost along I-695 and the six on the Key Bridge, one was killed while trimming trees in December and the latest was a flagger who was injured in March but died from his injuries this month.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore established a Work Zone Safety Work Group following the historic loss of life in the March 2023 incident. That group was led by Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller, a traffic engineer, who spoke about two key changes that have already been made as a result. On April 9, the Maryland Road Worker Protection Act, which increases fines for drivers speeding in work zones, was signed into law as was creation of a permanent scholarship program for the loved ones of fallen transportation workers.

Miller noted the need to change driver behavior and cited as encouragement the high compliance with seat belts that was once thought revolutionary.

“Work zone safety is not just a statistic or a campaign slogan. It starts with you, me and everyone in between,” she said.

Robert Lewis, a maintenance team supervisor for MDOT, also spoke, describing the harrowing experience he and his crew survived on Feb. 28, 2023. They were dressed in high-visibility vests, had trucks with flashing lights and a truck-mounted attenuator while working to remove litter on the shoulder of U.S. 15 in Frederick County.

They moved to a different location and had gotten out of their vehicles moments before a dump truck pulling a trailer smashed into the vehicles, sending parts airborne.

“We did everything right and yet we almost lost our lives,” Lewis said. “Had this crash happened 30 seconds or a minute earlier, the outcome would have been very different.”

As the national kickoff ceremony drew to a close, a convoy of roughly 350 transportation vehicles led by companies that lost workers over the past 14 months traveled by along I-695 in a show of solidarity for the men and women working on the nation’s roadways and to help raise awareness of the importance of attentive driving by motorists.

Steven Cook, who was on Lewis’ crew, watched silently as the convoy passed and was encouraged to see the vehicles traveling the opposite direction slowing and flashing lights in support.

“It does mean people do care,” he said.

ATSSA President & CEO Stacy Tetschner was out of the country and could not attend the event but expressed his support for National Work Zone Awareness Week and his concern for the safety of every individual who is employed in roadway work zones.

“National Work Zone Awareness Week is meant to increase attention to the risks roadway workers face every day as they go about their work, seeking to provide all of us with safe avenues for travel,” Tetschner said. “Too often, we drive distracted and are impatient. I encourage everyone today, this week and every day to be mindful of roadway workers who are working on our behalf. Let’s put down our phones, be attentive to what’s happening around us and obey the work zone speed limit.”

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A recording of the event was posted on Thursday and is available here.

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Published Date

April 16, 2024

Post Type

  • News
  • Press Release

Topic

  • ATSSA News
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • NWZAW

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