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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - Sept/Oct 1999

Guest Editorial

"We Can't Do It Alone"

Two articles in our May/June 1999 issue were about safety in work-zones. This is a continual problem. Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Bradley L. Mallory calls it an epidemic.

The following remarks were made by Mallory on June 11, 1999, at a ceremony in Union County, Pa., honoring Marvin Aunkst, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) worker, who saved the life of a young trucker in a work-zone crash.

"[At 8:15 a.m. on May 10, the truck driver] guesses he just dozed off as he entered the work zone. His big rig slammed into the rear of our crash protection truck [and] ... caused an explosion ... as one of the fuel tanks on the rig ruptured.

"[The other members of the crew dove for cover over the guardrail, but Marvin, who was on the bridge deck, had to try to run across the bridge to safety.] The flaming truck ... struck him in the back, throwing him onto the engine compartment, as the truck continued another 75 feet before coming to a stop.

"He was hurting, but that didn't stop him from putting aside his own injuries as he heard the truck driver yelling for help. ... Marvin jumped down off the engine compartment, got the door open, and helped the trucker to safety - by all accounts, saving his life.

"Incidents like [this one], and thousands more across Pennsylvania during each construction season, have got to stop!

"Last year, motorists in Pennsylvania were involved in more than 2,000 crashes in highway work zones. Nineteen people were killed, and 1,848 of you were injured. ... As far as I'm concerned, even one death is too many.

"Motorists must start paying attention when approaching and driving through highway construction and maintenance work zones.

"Park it if you haven't had sufficient sleep. Too many drivers are getting behind the wheel and literally falling asleep, often with deadly consequences.

"Trucking companies, ... make your drivers as safe as they can be, and don't push them to the brink of exhaustion.

"If you have a cell phone, pull over if you want to use it in your vehicle.

"Avoid alcohol when driving.

"Follow the posted speed limit. Those few extra moments you may gain by speeding aren't worth the risk of having a crash. Over 32 percent of all fatal work-zone crashes involve speeding.

"When you've got your hands on the wheel and you're traveling along at 65 miles an hour, or even 35 miles an hour, stop daydreaming or doing anything other than driving. [About] 82 percent of work-zone crashes are caused by some form of driver error, including speeding.

"Leave plenty of room between you and the car or truck in front of you. If there is an emergency, it'll give you time to react. Over 40 percent of crashes in work zones are rear-end collisions.

"And every time you and your passengers hit the road, buckle up. It's the simplest, most effective way to avoid serious injury or death if you are involved in a crash.

"By the way, the trucker who injured our workers on I-80 last month is facing several criminal charges.

"But that's not what we want. We want every driver to travel safely through work zones. We want ... every construction worker ... to be able to go home at the end of the day to their families safe and sound.

"But we can't do it alone. Each and every one of us must take our driving seriously, as seriously as if someone's life depends on it. BECAUSE IT DOES!"

Mallory offers sound, common sense advice that reemphasizes that despite federal and state efforts to ensure safety, those efforts are somewhat negated if drivers don't cooperate and drive safely. We can't do it alone.

Bob Bryant