Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Another reason for tougher Work Zone enforcement in South Carolina

Yesterday was another sad lesson in the need to crack down on work zone violators in South Carolina, when a motorist was charged with DUI with an incident which an SCDOT worker was hit and killed on Interstate 20:

The driver of the car that killed a state Department of Transportation worker on Interstate 20 in Lexington County Monday afternoon has been charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident, according to the state Highway Patrol.
Thomas Lee Stafford, 39, is accused of driving drunk when his 2003 Nissan SUV hit Nicholas Johnson and fatally wounded Nicholas Johnson, who was walking along the road’s emergency lane near mile marker 62, according to Highway Patrol spokesman Brent Kelly.

Make no mistake about it, the dangers of work zones are real. If you doubt it, I invite you to spend some time in work zones, which is part of what I've done for a living for over a decade as an HR and Safety Manager.

While you might think it's just workers who are in harm's way, think again:

  • In over a decade in the highway construction business, eleven people died in work zone incidents on my company's projects: eight were in cars, three were on foot and ZERO of those who died or were seriously injured were workers. This is still no consolation when I'm on site with law enforcement, news media, insurance investigators and others, investigating and documenting a fatality incident. It's a very real and painful task which I've done all too often.
  • My company's experience is not a bittersweet exception as work zone safety statistics tell us that the majority of people who are seriously injured or killed aren't workers - they're people who are traveling through those work zones. Thus addressing work zone safety is protecting everyone in the work zone - motorists and workers alike.

What a 2010 Dodge Charger looks like
when hit by a drunk driver going 90 mph.
But there is hope for progress in making South Carolina's work zones safer.

Earlier this year, following two incidents on one of my company's projects, including one on St. Patrick' Day where a driver went through 1.5 miles of closed lanes and missed a dozen workers by less than ten feet and another where a drunk driver entered closed lands and destroyed my personal car, legislators were quick to respond. 
Two Senators, Larry Martin and Larry Grooms, plan to re-introduce work zone enforcement legislation that would make offenders pay for work zone enforcement costs early in the session. Other legislators have offered their support for these efforts and I hope to be reporting good news soon.

If you'd like to follow these efforts, there is a Facebook page set up: SC Work Zone Safety Reform


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