Caltrans Remember the Fallen at Workers Memorial Event
District 7 employees and guests took a moment out of their day on Friday, May 6 to recognize and remember District 7 workers who were killed on the job.
“Be cautious, be careful, and be safe,” said Bobby Ochoa, a highway maintenance worker from the East Los Angeles Maintenance Yard. Ochoa’s vehicle was hit by a motorist while he and Ian Goldson were clearing debris along the Pomona Freeway (SR-60). Ochoa was seriously injured and was off work for two months. Goldson, had just stepped out of the truck before it was hit, but he was not physically injured.
Ochoa and Goldson’s experience is an example of the risks Caltrans employees take to maintain, build, and operate California’s transportation system. Unfortunately, 32 employees have lost their lives while performing similar tasks. Statewide, Caltrans has lost 176 employees since 1924, when the Department began keeping records of such fatalities.
“Unfortunately some our friends, colleagues, and relatives cannot be here today because they have made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Deputy District Director of Maintenance Dan Freeman. “Even with all of the safety precautions that workers take, the danger is still very real.”
Representatives from the International Union of Operating Engineers, Professional Engineers in California Government, California Highway Patrol (CHP), and ABC 7 were in attendance to show support for Caltrans fallen.
“Caltrans is tasked with the important responsibility of keeping our freeway system up to date and traffic moving throughout the state,” said CHP Captain Bill Dance.” Unfortunately, it is also one of the most dangerous jobs.”
Every year more than 1,000 motorists die in highway work zone crashes and more than 40,000 people are injured. As a result of these dangers, fines for speeding in work zones have increased to $1,000 or more.
Unfortunately, many motorists have yet to understand the risks they take by allowing themselves to be distracted. When motorists are distracted by texting or talking on their cell phones, are intoxicated or driving impaired, or aren’t attentive, accidents can occur.
To remedy this recurring problem fines have been increased for talking or texting on ones cell phone while driving and new laws like the The Move Over, Slow Down law have been enacted. The Move Over, Slow Down law requires that a person driving a vehicle on a freeway and approaching in a lane adjacent to a stationary marked Caltrans vehicle displaying flashing amber warning lights, or a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that displays emergency lights, to safely make a lane change from that lane, or slow to a reasonable and prudent speed.
The reality is that until motorists change their behaviors, the risk of injury or death for highway workers will remain high. That’s why it’s up every motorist to Slow For The Cone Zone, and put an end to the senseless death and injury of thousands of highway workers and motorists.