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Safety on the Front Lines

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Lauren Garduño, newly appointed as Chief Procurement Officer and Deputy Administrative Officer, addresses the crowd at the monthly luncheon.

As we work to create the finest transportation system in the world, my highest concern remains the safety of my colleagues who spend their days dangerously close to speeding traffic. Safety is our number one goal at TxDOT—for our employees, for our contractors, and for the traveling public.

Each year in April, we take time to bring attention to motorist and worker safety in work zones during National Work Zone Awareness Week. The theme for 2013 is “Roadway Work Zone Safety: We're All in This Together.”

TxDOT and contractors must work together to continue searching for ways to improve safety in our work zones. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has taken steps in the past several years to improve work zone design and train more than 46,000 highway workers. Efforts by the FHWA also include strengthening law enforcement near work zones and heightening awareness among drivers.

TxDOT’s Construction Division works closely with our Occupational Safety Division to improve work zone safety and save lives. TxDOT has recently begun implementing rumble strips in work zones to help alert motorists to slow down. We are expanding the use of real-time, dynamic message boards to identify work zones and communicate to drivers that workers are present. Lighting on vehicles has been improved to help warn traveling motorists. The department has committed to purchase 136 pieces of work zone safety equipment that will include trailer truck mounted attenuators and automated flagger assistance devises. TxDOT districts across the state conduct safety summits to share ideas and best practices.


Chief Engineer John Barton speaks with Past President Bob Lanham

These efforts have helped reduce the number of work zone fatalities to record lows. Overall work zone fatalities and injuries have fallen nationally by 35 percent since 2000. TxDOT has seen a decline in work zone fatalities for two consecutive years because of increased safety measures and public outreach efforts. While work zone fatalities and crashes have declined, there is always more work to do.

It’s also important to note that more than four of every five victims in a work zone crash are motorists, which is why it is particularly important for drivers to remain alert while driving through work zones. The two leading causes of work zone crashes are excessive speed and the failure to remain alert while driving. As a result, one in three work zone crashes is a rear-end collision. Work zone safety and awareness is critical, both for drivers and the men and women that work on our highways every day.

Everyone must take responsibility for work zone safety, from engineers and planners to drivers and pedestrians, because the cost of not doing so is very high. A memorial hangs in the lobby of the historic Dewitt C. Greer Bldg. in Austin which states, “In recognition and tribute to all TxDOT employees who lost their lives in the performance of their duties.” This is a somber reminder of the need for all of us to strive to improve safety every day.

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