The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is reminding drivers to be more vigilant around construction zones after several accidents occurred during the week of August 13. “This has been a horrendous week,” said ODOT’s Dave Thompson, according to KOIN 6 News. “Having three people hurt in four days is just not acceptable.”
On August 15, a 49-year-old construction zone flagger, Tyresa Monaghan, was killed in Umatilla County when an alleged drunk driver hit her. The 76-year-old driver kept driving for about a mile, endangering the lives of other construction workers, before he was caught, treated at the hospital, and then arrested. On the same night, another flagger was seriously injured on 99W near Monmouth.
On Friday, August 17, yet another flagger was injured in Camas when a driver allegedly became frustrated with the traffic backup and hit her. James Stafford, who had been watching the paving crews work through his window and had spoken with the flagger earlier in the day, told the news agency that when he heard someone yell, ‘give her some water,’ he thought she had fainted. He brought some water, but discovered that she had been run down, suffering leg and back injuries. The driver, who witnesses say hit her in a fit of road rage, was arrested for felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor failure to obey a flagman.
“They put their lives on the line,” Stafford told the news agency. “They are here to keep the other construction workers safe, and I talked to some of the other workers. Sometimes it’s terrifying. It sounds like, I mean they have people ranting and raving at them, and they are just trying to do their job.”
On average, five people die and more than 430 are injured every year in Oregon work zone crashes. Thompson told the news agency that, if those numbers stay high, ODOT may shut down roads completely during construction projects.
In an effort to raise awareness about construction zone safety, ODOT has been lighting up bridges with orange lights to represent safety. The Union Street Pedestrian Bridge in Salem was orange for a few days to remind drivers to ‘See orange: Zone in.’ “Call it a cheap tactic to get people to pay attention, because that’s what we need,” Thompson told the news agency.
ODOT offers drivers the following safety tips for traveling in work zones:
- Pay complete attention, especially in the transition zone before the work area. An inattentive driver is the most common cause of work zone crashes.
- Orange is your clue! Pay attention when you see orange signs, barrels, cones and barricades.
- Obey all speed signs, because speed may be reduced for your safety and the safety of workers.
- Remember, work zone traffic lanes often are narrow, without shoulders or emergency lanes.
- When possible, move over to give workers more room between them and your vehicle.
- Expect delays — plan for them and leave early so you can drive safely through the work zone.
- Know before you go! Call 511 or visit www.TripCheck.com to check routes, work zones, and road and weather conditions before you head out.