GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WJZ/SHA) — At an active construction site along Maryland’s Intercounty Connector many gathered around a mobile memorial Monday honoring those killed in work zone crashes.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley was joined by numerous state and federal partners to kick off National Work Zone Awareness Week.

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The goal is to draw attention to the work zone dangers faced daily by workers and drivers alike.

“Despite increases in traffic and in highway construction and repair work in each state, roadway safety is increasing and work zone fatalities are falling,” said Federal Administrator Victor Mendez. “Clearly, progress is being made but we need drivers to pay attention to road workers, and to each other, if we are to make highways even safer.”

Over the past 10 years in Maryland, work zone crashes averaged 2,646 each year, injuring more than 1,400 and killing 12 people. Nationally, more than 700 people are killed each year in work zone crashes – the majority of them motorists.

“Maryland is pleased to host the 2011 national launch of this safety awareness campaign,” said Secretary Swaim-Staley. “Safety on all Maryland roads at all times is a top priority for the O’Malley-Brown Administration. Governor O’Malley today proclaimed April as Work Zone Safety Awareness Month in Maryland to heighten public awareness of the special considerations drivers need to take when navigating work zones. Slowing down, being patient and remaining alert when traveling through work zones saves lives.”

Leticia Guzman’s father, Roberto Garcia, was the latest SHA employee to be injured in a work zone. Garcia was critically injured just two weeks ago while guiding traffic through utility work along US 1 in Howard County. He was thrown into the air and suffered a head injury including brain bleeding, and other major injuries. He remains in the hospital Tuesday, and once released will require weeks of physical therapy and rehabilitation. Leticia Guzman was notified of the crash and has been caring for father while he has been hospitalized.

“I stay awake at night wondering how I’m going to care for my father once he gets home,” said Leticia Guzman. “I want people to think about the impact driving too fast and not paying attention can have on a family before the next traffic crash happens.”

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Also on hand was Laurie Moser, a strong Work Zone Safety Advocate whose husband, SHA Frederick County Maintenance Team Leader Rick Moser, was killed when an inattentive driver veered across the shoulder line more than three years ago.

“Rick was a worker fatality – he was that one in five statistic. It really frightens me to think that there’s a true possibility that my family may still be affected by another work zone crash as drivers or passengers. Any of us, for that matter, could find ourselves in one of the ‘four out of five’ crashes where motorists are injured or killed,” she said.

As part of Maryland’s effort to reduce work zone crashes this year, law enforcement will continue to use the SafeZones automated speed camera program to fine drivers exceeding the speed limit by 12 or more miles in work zones along controlled access roadways with a 45 mph or more speed limit. In the 15 months since the SafeZones program was initiated, 472,864 citations have been issued. The technology raises driver awareness in work zones and plays an important role in positively influencing driving behavior in construction zones.

This construction season, there will be numerous active work zone sites as State Highway Administration (SHA) crews improve roads around the state. Hundreds of state employees, contractors and sub-contractors will be in work zones this season, working on projects ranging from paving, bridge rehabilitation and regular maintenance as well as working on major roadway projects such as the Intercounty Connector. While SHA and its transportation partners work hard to maintain safe traffic mobility in work zones, each driver needs to actively modify his or her driving style to help prevent crashes.

“During National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, law enforcement will increase its active presence as part of the State’s efforts to encourage drivers to pay attention in work zones. Additionally the State Highway Administration will run an educational and safety marketing campaign to urge people to drive more safely in work zones,” said SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen.

Maryland’s Work Zone Awareness efforts begin in April and will continue through spring. The public awareness campaign produced by SHA carries the theme “Safer Driving. Safer Work Zones. For Everyone.” and includes public service announcements, billboards and web marketing materials.

On behalf of the national partners making up the National Work Zone Safety Awareness committee, SHA Administrator Neil J. Pedersen announced the winning state, which competed to host next year’s press conference and recognition week launch. The work zone memorial wall and national kick-off will travel to Missouri next April.

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For more information on Work Zone Safety Awareness, click here.