HARRISBURG, Pa., July 7, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following the June 1 death of a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission worker in a work-zone crash and reports of public vehicles entering work zones or narrowly missing workers, PennDOT and the commission today called on drivers to use caution and obey laws in work zones.
"There will be a lot of construction work this year because of our transportation plan, so PennDOT and other roadway workers will be a common sight," PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said. "These are men and women who are working literally inches from passing traffic – it's a very important, but very dangerous job."
Turnpike Commission CEO Mark Compton noted that there are very real consequences when people choose to drive distracted or speed through work zones.
"The loss of William McGuigan is a reminder that there are real people working in our construction zones, not just cones and barrels. Just like all of us, these people want to make it home to their families at the end of the day," Compton said. "As a driver in a work zone, our first priority must be to obey the speed limit. Be aware of the presence of workers — it can mean life or death for our employees."
McGuigan, an equipment operator at the Turnpike's Devault Maintenance Facility in Malvern, Pa., died after being hit by a tractor trailer that entered the closed lane in which he was working, about two miles east of the Downingtown Interchange in Chester County. He left behind a wife and two adult daughters.
Through June 23 this year, PennDOT has reported 10 incidents resulting in staff injury or equipment damage, as well as 32 "near misses" due to public vehicles inappropriately entering work zones or disobeying flaggers or traffic control devices. This year has already surpassed the 18 near misses reported in 2013, which also saw 44 staff-injury or equipment-damage reports.
Through June 10 this year, the Turnpike Commission estimates there have been approximately 15 incidents resulting in staff injury or equipment damage and about 20 "near misses" due to traffic entering work zones or disobeying traffic-control devices.
Since the department's creation in 1970, 84 PennDOT employees have lost their lives in the line of duty. McGuigan marked the Turnpike Commission's 34th worker fatality since the turnpike opened in 1940.
In addition to causing some worker deaths, data shows that unsafe driving in work zones also impacts drivers themselves. According to PennDOT data, in 2013, there were more than 1,800 crashes in Pennsylvania work zones, an increase from the more than 1,600 work-zone crashes in 2012. Sixteen people were killed in work-zone crashes in 2013, five fewer than in 2012.
For more information on work zone safety tips and laws, visit the "Work Zone" information center at www.JustDrivePA.com.
Media contact: Rich Kirkpatrick or Erin Waters-Trasatt, PennDOT, 717-783-8800
Carl DeFebo, Pa. Turnpike Commission, 717-920-7176
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Transportation