PennDOT Worker Killed, Second Worker Injured in McKean County

Oct 01, 2010, 15:50 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

CLEARFIELD, Pa., Oct. 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A PennDOT worker, Jack Griffin, 51, of Bradford, was killed today when a vehicle crashed into a work zone on State Route 646 in Foster Township, McKean County.

"It is difficult to lose a member of our PennDOT family," said Ron Keim, assistant district executive for maintenance in PennDOT Engineering District 2. "Our thoughts are with Jack's family and friends as they face this sudden and devastating loss."  

Griffin was a flag-person during a pipe replacement operation this morning when a northbound vehicle came through the work zone and struck him. The vehicle then traveled further into the work zone, striking another PennDOT employee, 13-year veteran Jim Burrows. Griffin died at the scene and Burrows was reported to be in stable condition at Hamot Medical Center in Erie.

Griffin was the 82nd PennDOT employee killed in the line of duty since 1970 and the third to die this year. Earlier this year, PennDOT workers Thomas Allen, 57, of Lebanon County and Richard Bentel, 43, of Lawrence County died in the line of duty.

Today's fatality marks the first time a PennDOT District 2 employee died in a work-related incident. District 2 covers Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Juniata, McKean, Mifflin and Potter counties.

To honor Griffin, Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E., ordered all Pennsylvania state flags at PennDOT facilities to fly at half-staff for five days beginning Monday, Oct. 4.

"This tragedy prompts us again to urge all drivers to slow down as they approach work zones," Biehler said.

Information on work zone safety is available at PennDOT's website by clicking first on the heading for "Traffic Safety Information Center" and then "Work Zone."

Media contact: Marla Fannin, 814-765-0423

Editor's Note: Following is a list of 10 tips for safely approaching and traveling through highway work zones.

  • In any work zone along any road, major or minor, expect the unexpected!  Normal speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people and vehicles may be working on or near the road.
  • Diamond-shaped orange warning signs are generally posted in advance of road construction projects.  Slow down!  Be alert!  Pay attention to the signs!
  • In addition to other warning signs, a "Flagger Ahead" warning sign may be posted in the work zone.  When you see this, stay alert and be prepared to obey the flagger's directions.  In a work zone, a flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign, so you can be cited for disobeying his or her directions.
  • Calm down. Work zones aren't there to personally inconvenience you.  They are necessary to improve the roads for everyone.
  • You may see flashing arrow panels or "Lane Closed Ahead" signs.  Safely merge as soon as possible.  Don't zoom right up to the lane closure, then try to barge in - if every driver cooperates, traffic moves more efficiently.  Motorists can help maintain traffic flow and posted speeds by moving to the appropriate lane at first notice of an approaching work zone.
  • Slow down when the signs say to do so. A car traveling 60 MPH travels 88 feet per second.  If you're traveling at 60 MPH and pass a sign that says "Road Work - 1500 Feet," you'll be inside that work zone in 17 seconds.
  • The most common crash in a highway work zone is the rear-end collision, so remember to leave two seconds of braking distance between you and the car ahead of you. The amount of space required to provide two seconds of stopping time will increase the faster you drive!
  • Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment, and workers.  Just like you, highway workers want to return home safely after each day's work.
  • Some work zones - like line painting, road patching, and mowing - are mobile, moving along the road as the work is finished.  Just because you don't see the workers immediately after you see the warning signs, doesn't mean they're not out there.  Observe the posted signs until you see the one that says you've left the work zone.
  • Expect delays; plan for them and leave early to reach your destination on time.  Highway agencies use many different ways to inform motorists about the location and duration of major work zones.  Often, the agencies will suggest a detour to help you avoid the work zone entirely.  Plan ahead, and try an alternate route.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Transportation