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WATCH FOR HIGHWAY WORKERS

Dear Abby: I am a safety engineer with the Federal Highway Administration. Because our nation is committed to maintaining its roads and highways, there is an enormous amount of continued road maintenance and reconstruction going on in every state. Much of the work is done at night in order to reduce traffic congestion, which means that our workers are harder to see, and driving through a work zone can be more difficult.

During the period from 1998 to 2002, the number of people killed on foot and in motor vehicle accidents in work zones went from 722 to a high of 1,181 - with more than 52,000 seriously injured in 2002. The good news is, in 2003, with more emphasis on work zones, the number of fatalities dropped to 1,028 and serious injuries to 41,239. We would like to continue that downward trend.

Please remind everyone who is traveling through a work zone to be extra-attentive to his or her speed, the current road conditions, changing traffic patterns and our highway workers. Safety is everyone's responsibility. Lives can be saved if motorists do their part.

- Kenneth J. Kochevar, Sacramento, Calif.

Dear Kenneth: I'm glad to do my part. The deaths and injuries you described are preventable. Remember, folks, these workers are on the job to make your travel safe, efficient and smooth. They may be just a few feet on the other side of those orange cones or barriers.

Some safety tips for driving in work zones:

Slow down! Speeding is one of the major causes of work-zone accidents.

Expect the unexpected, including altered traffic lanes.

Don't tailgate. The most common crash in a highway work zone is a rear-end collision because someone was driving too close to the car in front.

Keep your vehicle a safe distance from the construction workers and their equipment.

Obey road-crew flaggers, and pay attention to the signs.

Stay alert and minimize distractions. (This means talking on cell phones or changing radio stations.)

Plan ahead. The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, wzsafety.tamu.edu, posts links to information on work-zone delays throughout the country. If you know road work is being done in your area, allow enough time to drive safely to your destination, and check radio, TV and Web sites for traffic updates before you hit the road.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.