Fatality reminds drivers to ‘Give ’em a brake’

Highway worker in orange holds 'SLOW' signAn Oregon highway worker has died from injuries suffered June 6 when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver on Interstate 5 near Aurora.

The 57-year-old victim and a co-worker had been aboard a pickup truck positioned inside of orange and white safety barrels that diverted traffic. Despite the barrels, the men were rear-ended by a full-size box truck. Police later found and jailed its driver, charging him with five counts including reckless endangerment of highway workers.

The pickup-truck passenger, age 20, suffered serious injuries in the crash.

The highway workers' employer said, "Please pay extra attention and slow down in work zones so something like this never happens again."

Give-em-a-brake2-WSDOT.jpg.jpgIndeed. We're now in the thick of road-construction season, so drivers should slow down and be especially cautious when approaching construction areas crowded with highway workers and their equipment. In Oregon and Washington, transportation officials promote that behavior in ongoing "Give 'em a BRAKE" traffic-safety campaigns.

The men and women wearing orange and yellow vests aren't the only people at risk. Washington's Department of Transportation (WSDOT) says that 96% of the people injured or killed in work-zone collisions are drivers and their passengers. If you think such accidents are rare, know that Washington averages 916 highway work-zone injuries each year.

In 2016, 11 people died in Washington work-zone crashes.

WSDOT says the top-three causes of work-zone crashes are distracted/inattentive driving, tailgating, and speeding.

Check out Oregon's work-zone statistics on this Oregon Department of Transportation page. Sadly, they're not unlike Washington's results.

If compassion and respect for human life aren't enough for motorists to give 'em a brake, maybe a steep fine will suffice. Drivers pay double the fine for any infractions within a roadway construction zone, any time day or night, per Oregon and Washington law. Drivers also can be ticketed simply for failure to obey a traffic flagger.

Oregon-brake-sign.jpgYounger drivers in particular should be cautious. WSDOT data shows that between 2010-2015, nearly 41% of work-zone crashes involved a driver age 30 or younger.

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