FRANKFORT — Recent crashes that injured or endangered Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) workers and contractors - and killed one motorist - point to the need for extreme caution when approaching highway work zones.
Most of the crashes occurred in the western Kentucky counties that constitute Department of Highways District 2, headquartered in Madisonville. Two work zone crashes occurred in District 2 in the past week, including one Tuesday that left a contractor employee in critical condition.
“In the months of April, May and June of this year, District 2 employees and our contractors have had numerous life threatening situations with traffic while they were doing their jobs repairing and expanding our roadway system,” said Kevin McClearn, District 2 chief engineer. “Our highway workers are faced with a job environment every day that depends on motorists reading signs and following directions. Lives can be endangered by careless and distracted driving.”
Acting Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said drivers should always be focused on the road, but work zones especially require their undivided attention. “The key is to avoid distractions generally,” Hancock said. “That’s why we are convinced that Kentucky’s new law prohibiting texting while driving will save lives.”
Last year in Kentucky, nine people died and nearly 140 were injured in highway construction and maintenance work zones. The most recent figures available from the Federal Highway Administration show there were 720 work zone fatalities in 2008. Nationally, four of every five victims of a work zone crash is a motorist, not a highway worker.
Recent work zone crashes in Kentucky: April 6 - Two KYTC employees were injured when their vehicle was struck from behind by a van near the Slaughters exit of the Breathitt-Pennyrile Parkway.
April 7 - A KYTC employee flagging traffic in a work zone on US 41 in Muhlenberg County was struck when one vehicle failed to slow for the work zone and crashed into another. The employee has not yet returned to work.
April 16 - A commercial vehicle struck a construction barricade on the US 60 Green River Bridge at Spottsville, in Henderson County. No workers on the bridge were injured, but the truck driver was charged with wanton endangerment, careless driving, disregarding a traffic control device and operating an over-sized vehicle in the work zone.
June 10 - A tractor-trailer blocked the US 60 Green River Bridge at Spottsville for more than two hours after attempting to pass through work zone restrictions and hitting a barrier wall. No injuries, but the driver was cited for failing to obey a traffic control device.
June 15 - Two construction workers replacing guardrail on the Audubon Parkway were injured when the driver of a box truck lost control and struck the contractors’ vehicle.
June 18 - A motorist was killed in a two-vehicle crash within the work zone for the US 60 Bypass Extension project in Daviess County.
June 19 - A KYTC truck was struck by another vehicle on the Western Kentucky Parkway in Muhlenberg County while employees were assisting police with traffic control for an earlier crash.
June 22 - A KYTC employee checking on a contractor’s work was struck by a vehicle on the shoulder of the US 60 Bypass at Owensboro. He suffered a broken leg and remains off work.
June 29 - A vehicle traveling the Western Kentucky Parkway in Muhlenberg County hit a crash truck protecting KYTC employees who were filling potholes and smoothing pavement.
June 30 - A construction worker flagging traffic on KY 91 in Caldwell County was struck by a pickup truck and sustained a traumatic head injury. He remained in critical condition today at Vanderbilt Medical Center.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has posted a work zone safety awareness video that can be viewed on the Cabinet’s webpage, http://transportation.ky.gov or on YouTube. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlByKgQ4A0I)
In addition, the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety offers the following work zone safety tips:
Expect the unexpected.
Don’t tailgate. Keep a safe distance between vehicles.
Keep a safe distance from workers and equipment.
Pay attention to signs.
Obey road crew flaggers.
Stay alert and minimize distractions.
Keep up with the traffic flow.
Schedule enough time and call 511 or go to http://511.ky.gov for Kentucky traffic and travel information.
Be patient and stay calm.