States across the country are reminding motorists that safer driving means safer work zones as National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) 2012 kicks off today on Route 141 near St. Louis, Missouri. “Don’t Barrel Through Work Zones” is the theme of the 2012 event.

Missouri and other states such as Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington have also sponsored “Go Orange” campaigns where they light public buildings in orange and encourage citizens to wear the color to show support for NWZAW. In Missouri, more than 90 buildings and landmarks throughout the State have participated in Operation Orange.

“These and other work zone safety awareness strategies states are using stress the importance of protecting both workers and motorists,” said Chung Eng of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). In 2010, 576 workers and motorists were killed in highway work zones and more than 37,000 were injured. Approximately 85 percent of those killed in work zones are drivers and their passengers.

In Pennsylvania, a memorial was created to illustrate the loss of human life that occurs when motorists are inattentive. “Motorists who speed, drive distracted or are simply careless when traveling in a work zone pose a great safety risk to highway workers and other drivers,” said PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch. “We can prevent the needless tragedy that results from crashes in work zones if drivers pay attention and slow down. The memorial you see here includes some victims of work zone accidents that could have been prevented.”

PennDOT's traveling Worker Memorial is on display in the lobby of the Keystone Building in Harrisburg this week. The memorial includes 83 posts topped by hard hats and draped in safety vests. Each post represents a PennDOT employee who died in the line of duty since 1970. In 2011 there were more than 1,800 work zone crashes in Pennsylvania, resulting in 21 deaths including one highway worker.

Every April since 2000 the Federal Highway Administration and a host of other federal and state safety and transportation organizations have partnered together to host a national event to recognize and increase public awareness on roadway work zone safety.

If you want to see how your state is observing National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, click here:National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week Events