California Department of Transportation

California Department of Transportation

Date: August 22, 2012
District: Headquarters
Contact: Caltrans contact: Tamie McGowen, (916) 657-5060
              CHP contact: Fran Clader, (916) 843-3310
              AGC contact: Sophia Taft, (916) 371-2422
              UCON contact: Emily Cohen, (925) 855-7900


SACRAMENTO - Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and construction industry contractors today are calling on all Californians for their help in the ongoing effort to make highway work zones safer for workers by moving over one lane, if it’s safe to do so, or slowing down when passing a maintenance or construction crew or emergency personnel stopped on the side of the freeway.

In July alone, six motorists and contracted workers were killed – including three by drunk drivers – and multiple others injured in highway work zones.

“Every day, highway workers put their lives in danger just by going to work,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “These tragic incidents are sobering reminders that motorists must never drink and drive, and we all must do everything we can to keep our highways safe.”

“Highway workers and emergency personnel risk their lives every day while helping to make our roads safer,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “We will continue to work with Caltrans to make highway work zones as safe as possible. However, even with appropriate safety precautions, we need the public’s help to exercise common sense when driving and to refrain from driving impaired, speeding and other distracting behaviors that can lead to driver error.”

Caltrans meets regularly with contractors to discuss mutual safety concerns to make work zones safer, and Caltrans and the CHP work together to test the effectiveness of having multiple CHP vehicles in construction zones to monitor driver safety and enforce the speed limit and the Move Over Law. When feasible, Caltrans allows an extra buffer lane between workers and vehicles in specific construction zones, so that workers previously separated only by orange cones have more space between themselves and oncoming vehicles.

"Over 700,000 men and women make their living in California’s construction industry. Their livelihoods should never be a life or death proposition,” said Tom Holsman, chief

executive officer for the Associated General Contractors of California (AGC). “AGC has
always been a strong and proud partner with public agencies as they deliver the much needed transportation projects the public demands. We need, more than ever, to work with our partners and have an informed traveling public to keep drunk drivers off our highways and out of work zones," Holsman added.
"I can assure you that the safety of crews is the single highest contractor priority when working on jobsites. Above profit, and above performance, nothing else matters if our members’ crews aren't safe,” said United Contractors CEO, Mark Breslin. “California drivers also have a serious responsibility to protect the lives of those who wake up early and stay up late to ensure safe roads and highways to travel on. Protecting the lives of our crews must be an 'all-hands-on-deck' effort on the part of Caltrans, industry, policy makers and the traveling public to make sure that each and every worker returns home safely to their family."

Among those killed include:

Regan Johnson, a 24-year-old Caltrans contractor’s employee, was killed July 11 by a suspected drunk driver while working on Highway 99 in Fresno.

A motorcyclist died on July 18 when he clipped a “road closed” sign near a work zone on Highway 49 in Tuolumne County, causing him to veer off the highway directly into a telephone pole.

Two contract workers, 56-year-old Ramon Lopez and 58-year-old Ricardo Zamora, died July 22 when they were both struck by the same vehicle following a collision between two suspected drunk drivers in separate vehicles in a highway work zone on Interstate 405 in Torrance.

A minivan struck a contractor’s truck as it was picking up cones in a construction zone on Interstate 10 in El Monte on July 24, killing the van’s driver and his dog. Both of the Caltrans contract workers in the truck were injured.

A truck driver failed to slow down in a construction zone on Highway 99 in Bakersfield on July 25 and was killed after colliding with a dump truck.

In Redding, Caltrans tested temporary rumble strips in the areas leading up to work zones, and the results are encouraging: 46 percent of traffic slowed down. The tests are now expanding statewide.

Highway construction and maintenance work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. Since the 1920s, 178 Caltrans employees have died while on the job.

To download a zip-file containing a broadcast-quality public service announcement video about the Move Over law:

# # # #