Work zone accidents on the rise along with highway construction

Tuesday, April 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CAPITOL HEIGHTS, Md. (AP) _ Fatal wrecks in highway work zones have increased sharply along with construction, killing 1,093 people in 2000.

The deaths have risen steadily since 1998, when Congress passed a six-year, $203 billion bill for highway construction and mass transit, an increase of 40 percent over the previous six years.

``We never fully appreciated how much added pressure would be on the highways,'' said Minnesota Rep. James Oberstar, the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation Committee. ``We're building the world's best highway system. We've not done enough to make it the world's safest highway system.''

Fatal crashes were dropping in the years leading up to the bill's passage, but increased 58 percent from 1997 to 2000, the latest year for which statistics are available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The American Traffic Safety Services Association, which represents companies that sell traffic control devices, unveiled the National Work Zone Memorial on Tuesday at a ceremony in Capitol Heights. More than 700 names of people killed in construction zone crashes are etched into a set of walls that will travel around the country this year.

State highway officials are supporting the memorial as a way to encourage motorists to drive carefully in construction zones. James Codell, Kentucky's secretary of transportation, said more than 80 percent of people who die in highway construction zones are motorists, not workers.

``If you drive, you are in a unique position to do something about work zone safety, and the life you save may very well be your own,'' he said.

Amy Snyder of Columbia, Pa., was at the unveiling to tell the story of her stepfather, Heiland Goldsborough, who worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. He was killed in 1999 when a large piece of farm equipment struck his truck in a work zone.

Snyder said she had expected Goldsborough to pick her up from high school that day. She learned of his death that evening when state troopers delivered the news to her mother.

``Talking about this is hard,'' she said through tears. ``I'm doing it because I hope I can be a small part in making sure someone else's dad is there to pick her up from school.''