A supervisor for the Texas Transportation Department said he was working at a road construction site along Highway 146 when an 18-wheeler nearly took his life. He said the tractor-trailer was going about 65 mph through the work zone and "sucked the helmet right off" his head when it flew by. The helmet was then run over by several vehicles before the worker could retrieve it and keep it as a reminder of the close call.
Sadly, many TxDot highway workers haven't been as lucky over the years. According to data from the state's transportation department, 100 people were killed in work zone accidents in 2010, including workers and people in cars. In the Houston area, there were 2,800 work-zone accidents at construction sites that left 21 people dead.
Recently, an event was held in Houston to commemorate National Work Zone Awareness Week, which is a yearly campaign sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration. TxDot workers gathered in their orange vests in front of a monument listing the names of the 24 highway workers from the Houston-area who were killed on the job since 1951.
A Harris County sheriff who spoke at the memorial said that most people don't realize that all highway workers have to protect them is "a flimsy cone, a simple barricade, a sign." He said that highway workers risk their lives every day on the job. The Houston police chief added that simple mistakes are costly in work zones.
"People don't realize how just trying to change the station on your radio, or making a call on your cell phone, or exceeding the speed limit can change someone's life instantly by having a fatal crash," he said.
The purpose of National Work Zone Awareness Week is to persuade drivers against driving dangerously through work zones. If the safety of highway workers isn't enough to convince drivers, they ought to know that traffic fines can be doubled in work zones, even if there is no accident.
Source: Transportation Nation, "100 Died in Texas Work Zone Fatalities in 2010," Gail Delaughter, April 25, 2012
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