Keeping highway construction workers safe

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - In Fayetteville a woman faces jail time for killing a worker in a construction zone, and in Illinois a Bloomfield man was killed when his car ran into a asphalt roller.

Highway workers face risks everyday from drivers who aren't paying attention.

Region 8 is no exception according to Senior Corporal Don Browning of the Arkansas State Police.

"In this area we have had fatalities with construction workers and the highway department has suffered losses due to accidents at construction zones." Browning said. We were standing alongside Highway 226 just outside the marked construction zone. Cars were barely slowing down for the slight curve.

This is just one of many construction areas here in our area.

Highway 63 near Portia is in the final stages of construction. Atlas Asphalt has had crews working along side traffic for nearly 3 years. Calvin Boyd says they take pains to keep their workers safe.

"We always have to put out flagman ahead signs and all the proper signs. Our flagman always have to have the stop titles and all that. Everybody has to wear reflective vests or safety shirts." Boyd says they hold frequent safety meetings as well and so far things on this project have been fairly safe.

"We haven't had any accidents and we really haven't had any close calls ourselves." Boyd says, "Actually we've been real lucky, real fortunate."

But keeping the workers safety conscious is only half the equation. Today's drivers have so many distractions it can only take an instant for a tragedy to occur.

Browning, "Most often in the construction zone, people aren't paying attention to the environment, the workers on the side of the roadway and the equipment." Today a striping crew was working on 63. A truck with flashing lights on either end of a string protected the workers walking up and down the highway with cars and semi's zooming by them. Speed is also an issue.

Boyd says the signs and flashing lights are usually set to give about a half mile warning for construction but there are other issues.

A problem that crops up as projects get close to finishing is...what side of the barrels do I drive on? Boyd says unless you pay attention it can be easy to wind up on the wrong side.

Boyd, "Some elderly person or somebody under the influence may get behind the barrels and not really be paying attention."

And that's where a lot of workers are often located. And if you are caught speeding in a marked construction or maintenance zone..

Browning. "The fines do double in that work zone for violations when workers are present." And you could face jail time for killing or injuring a worker.

Pay attention to the signs, slow down and keep workers safe. Boyd says though people love the new highway.

"We've opened that side there so far and they have already start speeding up."

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