National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW): How and When It Began

The first National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) was held in April 2000. It took place about four months after a memorandum of agreement (MOU) to create such a week was jointly signed by Kenneth R. Wykle, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Thomas R. Warne, president of AASHTO and executive director of the Utah Department of transportation; and Roger Wentz, president and chief executive officer of the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA).

(From left to right): Roger Wentz (ATSSA);, Kenneth R. Wykle (FHWA); and Thomas R. Warne (AASHTO/Utah DOT).

“Safety is a top concern to AASHTO’s member departments, and far too many fatalities and injuries occur in work zones each year,” said Warne at the time of the signing of that MOU. “AASHTO is dedicated to this effort to inform the public of the problem and to educate drivers on how to get through work zones in order to ensure their safety and that of the highway workers.”

Pennsylvania was among the states formally observing NWZAW that inaugural year. As part of the state’s efforts to commemorate the week and emphasize the vital need for greater safety in highway construction areas, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) introduced a family-oriented warning sign for work zones that read “Slow Down — My Daddy Works Here.” The black-and-orange sign featured those words in the handwriting of a child.

That theme of care and caution when traveling through work zones was reinforced by Penn DOT Safety Press Officer Deborah Schreckengost.  She said, “It is everyone’s responsibility to recognize and obey the signs in a work zone and to stay alert so as to be able to react to the constantly changing conditions of a construction zone.”

These messages for the first NWZAW echoed what a Pennsylvania state official had talked about more than a half-century earlier. In article appearing in a June 1949 edition of the Altoona Mirror newspaper, Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner C.M. Wilhelm likewise amplified the need to remain vigilant when driving through work zones. “Drivers who speed through these areas, or attempt to pass other cars, create a hazard which might cause death or injury,” he noted. “They must drive carefully at all times in order to protect the lives of the men doing work vital to the welfare of the public.”

Photo Credit: PennDOT

For more information on the inaugural NWZAW, please check out https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/00marapr/wzsafety.cfm

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