|Father and son Caltrans workers talk about near death experiences.|
Statewide, Caltrans has lost 183 employees since 1921, when the Department began keeping records of such fatalities. Of the 183, 32 of the workers were from District 7, covering Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The district’s last work related fatality occurred in 2005.
Last year in Northern California, Shawn Baker, 50, of Weed, and Joseph “Robert” Jones, 40, of Montague, died in April 2013 while working on a rock scaling operation to stabilize a hillside on State Route 96, west of Yreka. Their deaths ended a two-year stretch without a highway maintenance worker fatality. Several District 7 workers perform similar duties along state highways throughout the year as well.
“Our crews put themselves in harm’s way to maintain California’s transportation infrastructure and to help ensure motorists and goods and services get to where they need to go,” said District 7 Director Carrie Bowen.
On average 1,000 Caltrans vehicles are struck each year. Highway work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. The risk of death is seven times higher for highway workers than for an average worker, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Labor.
In addition to the danger to workers face, an estimated 85 to 90 percent of people who are killed in highway work zones are drivers and passengers. Latest data shows that speeding was a factor in more than 35 percent of all fatal work zone crashes. Most work zone fatalities are caused by rear-end collisions. Driver distraction, inattention and aggressive driving are most often the cause.
“We will never forget our fallen and we will never forget the risks they take every day and night working within a few feet or inches of vehicles zipping by,” said District 7 Director Carrie Bowen. “All motorists must remember those that you will leave behind if you become complacent or careless about your safety and the safety of those around you.”