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U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Urges Motorists to Drive Safely During July 4 Weekend

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Urges Motorists to Drive Safely During July 4 Weekend

U.S. Department of Transportation
July 2, 1999

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 2, 1999
Contact: Ben Langer
Tel. No: 202-366-5580
DOT 98-99

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today urged motorists to drive safely as they travel during the July 4 weekend. He reminded motorists to ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers by buckling up, not drinking and driving, and by driving safely through work zones. He reminded boaters to use life jackets while boating on the nation’s waterways.

"The risk of accidents and injury is greater during holidays because of increased travel and recreational activities," Secretary Slater said. "We can avert accidents by paying close attention to safety, which is President Clinton’s highest transportation priority–it is especially important for motorists to buckle up and observe work zone signs, for boaters to wear life jackets and for boat operators and drivers alike to stay sober."

According to U.S. Department of Transportation figures, about half of the 508 traffic fatalities over the July 4, 1997, holiday period were alcohol-related, and Independence Day, compared with other holidays, has the highest rate of alcohol-related fatalities. That year also took the lives of 821 people in recreational boating accidents. About 9 out of 10 drowning victims were not wearing life jackets, and about 27 percent of the drownings were alcohol-related. Traffic crashes in roadway work zones account for about 700 fatalities and 37,000 injuries each year.

"Motor vehicle injury is a preventable epidemic caused by speeding, drunk driving and other risky behavior," NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D., said. He asked motorists to be especially mindful of the three Ps for safety: Prepare for the trip, protect yourself, and prevent crashes.

To prepare, motorists should ensure that their vehicles are fit and help themselves avoid problems by checking fluids, tires, lights, wipers and brakes before long trips. To protect themselves, Dr. Martinez said that all motorists should use their seat belts and place children properly in child safety seats–always in the back seat. To prevent crashes, he said that drivers should avoid risky behavior, such as speeding, aggressive driving, and drinking and driving. He also enjoined drivers to avoid driving while fatigued by stopping every three hours and rotating driving responsibilities on long trips.

Federal Highway Administrator Kenneth R. Wykle said that his agency, in an effort to improve safety in work zones, has joined with the American Road and Transportation Builders Association to create a work zone information clearinghouse. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has set a goal to reduce by 20 percent in 10 years the number of work zone-related traffic fatalities.

"Safety is a promise we should make and carry out together," Wykle said. "Each of us must take personal responsibility for reducing crashes on our highways –caution pays off by saving lives in work zones."

Wykle offered the following tips for survival in work zones:

  • Expect the unexpected. Normal speed limits are reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people and vehicles may be working on or near the road.
  • Slow down, be alert and pay attention to the signs. Orange diamond-shaped warning signs are generally posted in advance of road construction projects.
  • Obey work zone signs and flagger’s directions. A flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign, so drivers can be cited for disobeying a flagger’s directions.
  • Calm down. A work zone is a temporary inconvenience that will result in an improved road.
  • Merge as soon as possible. Motorists can help maintain traffic flow and posted speeds by moving to the appropriate lane at the first notice of an approaching work zone.
  • Slow down when the signs say so. At a sign "Road Work 1500 feet," a car traveling 60 mph will take 17 seconds to reach the work zone.
  • Keep a safe braking distance from the vehicle ahead. The most common crash in a highway work zone is a rear-end collision.
  • Protect highway workers. This is best accomplished by keeping a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment and workers.
  • Observe posted work zone signs until you see "End of Road Work." Some work zones, like line painting, road patching and mowing, are mobile, so workers may be beyond your line of sight.
  • Expect delays. The FHWA suggests planning for delays by leaving early to reach your destination on time or trying an alternate route.

    More information about work zones and making roadway construction zones safer is available by calling the clearing house at 1-888-447-5556 or going to http://wzsafety.tamu.edu on the Internet.

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