Media event draws attention
With 279 work zone crashes last year in Idaho, it could be argued that work zones are among the most hazardous areas on the state highway system.
However, Monday morning (April 19), on the new Vista Avenue Interchange bridge over Interstate 84 in Boise, the most frightening aspect of being behind the orange barrels for District 3 project inspector Steve Erichson was being interviewed about work zone safety by three television reporters simultaneously.
That, along with having his back to oncoming traffic, proved to be little unsettling.
“You’re never supposed to have your back to traffic,” Erichson said. “But, there I was, answering their questions one after another, right up against the lanes, wondering when I could get back to work.”
Erichson found himself unexpectedly thrust into the media spotlight as he recounted close calls in work zones.
The media event along I-84 was arranged to bring attention to National Work Zone Safety Week (April 19-23).
During the media event organized by District 3 communications specialists June Sparks and Reed Hollinshead, KBOI-TV reporter Kiersten Throndsen asked to talk with a crew member who had a work zone “near-miss” story to tell.
Erichson happened to be handy with an incident that occurred the previous weekend to a co- worker while setting up a lane closure on the I-84 mainline project.
As Steve began the television news interview, two more reporters quickly set up video cameras to record the tale.
“…three vehicles slammed on their breaks,” Erichson continued, “and when he looked, they were about six feet away and he ended up jumping over the concrete barrier into the median to avoid being hit.”
Last year, more than 700 people nationwide lost their lives in work zone crashes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
An average of four Idaho motorists were killed and two construction workers were injured annually over the past five years in highway work zones. In that period, from 2004 to 2008, there were 105 serious injuries and an average of 247 crashes.
Crews working in or near the roadway can be especially vulnerable because their attention is focused on the job rather than on passing traffic.
“Since safety is ITD’s top priority, our goal was to get as much media attention as possible to remind drivers about the importance of slowing down and paying attention in work zones,” Sparks said.
“Highway construction projects may add a few minutes to your commute,” Hollinshead said, “but the projects are intended to improve highway conditions and promote safer driving for everyone.”