ODOT issues warning after construction zone injuries

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With road construction happening all over Oregon, the Oregon Department of Transportation issued a reminder to drivers to be more vigilant around construction zones after several incidents during the week.

“This has been a horrendous week,” Dave Thompson with ODOT said. “Having 3 people hurt in 4 days is just not acceptable.” 

A contruction flagger died when a driver hit her in Umatilla County on August 15, 2018. (ODOT)

A construction zone flagger was killed when she was hit by an alleged drunk driver in Umatilla County on August 15. The flagger, 49-year-old Tyresa Monaghan died at the scene. 

The driver, Leman Bledsoe, 76, kept driving for about a mile, which endangered other construction workers, police said. He was treated at the hospital and then arrested for DUII, recklessly endangering another person, reckless driving, failure to perform the duties of a driver and recklessly endangering and highway worker. 

An incident on 99W near Monmouth left another flagger seriously hurt on Wednesday night. 

Another flagger was injured in Camas, Washington on Friday after a driver allegedly became frustrated with the traffic. 

James Stafford told KOIN 6 News he’d been watching the paving crews work outside his window near NE 35th and Everett when he heard shouting.

“I heard him yell ‘give her some water’ — I thought she fainted,” Stafford said. “I came down with water and found out a guy ran her down.”

A flagger, who he had chatted with earlier, was on the ground with leg and back injuries. Witnesses said the driver hit her in a fit of road rage. 

“They put their lives on the line,” Stafford said. “$30 an hour is all they get paid. They are here to keep the other construction workers safe and I talked to some of the other workers. Sometimes it’s terrifying. It sounds like, I mean they have people ranting and raving at them and they are just trying to do their job.”

The Union Street Pedestrian Bridge in Salem was lit up with orange to raise awareness for construction zone safety. (ODOT)

The driver, 58-year-old Philip Lauritzen was arrested for felony hit-and-run accident and misdemeanor failure to obey a flagman for the incident. 

ODOT said an average of 5 people die and more than 430 are hurt each year in Oregon work zone crashes. Thompson said if those numbers stay high, they may consider shutting down roads completely during projects. 

ODOT said part of its effort to raise awareness about construction zone safety is to light up bridges with orange lights. They turned the Union Street Pedestrian Bridge in Salem orange for a few days to remind drivers to “See orange: Zone in” — orange representing the color of safety warnings. 

“Call it a cheap tactic to get people to pay attention, because that’s what we need,” Thompson said. 

ODOT gave these safety tips for driving in work zones:

  • Pay complete attention, especially in the transition zone before the work area. An inattentive driver is the most common cause of work zone crashes.
  • Orange is your clue! Pay attention when you see orange signs, barrels, cones and barricades.
  • Obey all speed signs, because speed may be reduced for your safety and the safety of workers.
  • Remember, work zone traffic lanes often are narrow, without shoulders or emergency lanes.
  • When possible, move over to give workers more room between them and your vehicle.
  • Expect delays — plan for them and leave early so you can drive safely through the work zone.
  • Know before you go! Call 511 or visit www.TripCheck.com to check routes, work zones and road and weather conditions before you head out. 

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