Widow, Family Members of Injured Workers Plead for Safer Driving in Highway Work Zones
Twelve highway employees have been killed while repairing Maryland roads in the last 10 years. National Work Zone Awareness Week kicked off today with stories of preventable worker injuries.
Laurie Moser’s husband, Rick, worked with the State Highway Administration (SHA) in Maryland for 21 years, repairing roads and making highways safe for motorists, even while putting himself in precarious proximity to passing cars.
Moser knew Rick’s profession was dangerous but she never expected to hear that a speeding driver had killed her husband on a summer day, June 26, 2007.
“[I worried] mostly in the winter,” she said Monday. “Never in my life did I dream it would be a clear summer day that I would receive this news.”
While her husband worked to clear debris from a state road, a Chevrolet 3500 truck crossed the shoulder of the lane and barreled into Rick at a speed of 60 mph, five miles above the posted limit. Rick was projected 170 feet forward and killed on impact.
“Recognizing that Rick’s death was completely preventable,” Moser said, “I am outraged that other families must suffer such as mine has, solely because of the actions of irresponsible drivers.”
Moser’s husband was one of 12 Maryland highway employees killed on the job within the last 10 years, according to the SHA. Another 1,400 were injured.
National Work Zone Awareness Week, which Maryland hosted this year, is a federal initiative to bring attention to road workers injured or killed while working.
Maryland’s Secretary of Transportation Beverly Swaim-Staley and Federal Highway Administration Administrator Victor Mendez kicked off the launch of the week in Laurel on Monday with speeches and a ceremony. State officials staged the safety event near the future site of the Intercounty Connector’s I-95 interchange, an active work zone where SHA employees are still constructing the eastern edge of the road.
Swaim-Staley says her department has erected more signage on state roads, telling drivers to slow down and, in some cases, letting them know their speed. She also said that speed limits are enforced more by state police.
“The more we can, as a nation, work to get the word out, similar to the kinds of things that we’ve done on seatbelts, for example, and then on cell phone usage, that’s really the goal,” Swaim-Staley said.
The latest highway injury occurred last month. Robert Garcia, who works with SHA’s office in Jessup, was helping to clear up a car accident on Route 1 and Whiskey Bottom Lane in Laurel on March 22. Garcia held up a stop signal in a work zone when an impatient driver drove through the area, striking Garcia and throwing him in the air. He was rushed to Howard County General Hospital, then to Johns Hopkins Hospital, with severe injuries.
Garcia’s daughter, Leticia Guzman, who spoke at the event, is grateful that her father survived but says he is still recovering from multiple injuries, including a brain hemorrhage, a broken shoulder and other broken bones.
“It was very difficult for me to see my father left so helpless, simply because someone didn’t have the patience to sit through a traffic stop in the work area,” Guzman said.
Garcia has months of rehabilitation ahead of him, including relearning how to walk and talk, but his daughter said he will return to his job with SHA if he can.
“I’m angry that people aren’t paying closer attention to the work zones and slowing down,” Guzman said. “This was totally preventable.”
National Work Zone Awareness Week is April 4-8.