Speech from Catherine Hejl:
"First I would like to let our neighbors in West know that our thoughts and prayers are with them and the emergency personnel who are working at and around the site of the fertilizer blast.
We are here today to talk about Work Zone Awareness Week. April 15-19. Although it is important to be aware of work zones each and every day, this week is designated for us to place particular emphasis on the driving through these work zones. We want the public and workers to stay safe in them.
There is an increase in work zones throughout Texas, and unfortunately there has been an increase in fatal crashes in these zones – statewide in 2012, there were 16,687 crashes within construction and maintenance zones resulting in 134 fatalities. In the 10 counties of the Bryan District, we had 281 work zone crashes with 3 fatalities – all drivers.
Crashes and fatalities in work zones are preventable. That is why TxDOT and law enforcement are ramping up efforts to make our roads safer. TxDOT is doing more education in events like this one, but also doing presentations on distracted driving and driving under the influence to local cities and schools. We also have been placing the number of fatalities to date on our electronic message signs to inform the public.
Also, TxDOT is using more tools to protect the workers and the public. I brought three examples today. First, we are just starting to use these rumble strips. When we have a lane closure, we will place the rumble strips across the lane so traffic will have an indication that they are entering a work zone.
2nd, I brought an automated flagging device. We are able to use this device in lieu of a live person on the edge of the roadway. Flaggers have a very dangerous job as many of our traveling public is distracted and aren’t aware that they are entering the work zone.
The last example I brought today is a trailer mounted attenuator. We place these attenuators in the lane closure to protect the workers and the drivers. We had a situation – not two months ago in Navasota on SH 6 where an attenuator such as this most likely saved lives. Both our workers and the public. There was an 18 wheeler that wasn't able to slow down in time for a lane closure and went into the work zone. He hit the attenuator before his vehicle got to the workers. No serious injuries.
Drivers hold the key to driving safely. We are all in this together. TxDOT can build safe highways and law enforcement can help keep those roads safe. But at the end of the day, it is the drivers who hold the key to driving safely.
We ask that you slow down, pay attention, observe all traffic signs, put phones down, be patient, don’t tailgate and plan ahead."