The heavy summer travel season is here, and with the arrival of beautiful weather comes construction on Indiana’s roads. Despite the lower speed limits posted in work zones and constant warnings against distracted driving, the risk of collision is higher where construction is being performed. Statistics from Indiana University show the number of collisions, injuries and fatalities has been on the rise over the past several years.
In 2016, there were more than 223,000 traffic collisions across Indiana, and 5,487 occurred in work zones, an increase of 14 percent over the previous year. These collisions claimed the lives of 14 people and injured nearly 800. The impact is felt not only by motorists, but also by the construction workers who earn their livings building and maintaining these roads, often protected from traffic only by construction cones or barrels.
As a lifelong operating engineer, my first priority is ensuring the safety of the men and women who go to work every day in dangerous conditions. No matter how well trained highway workers are, their safety is often out of their hands.
In October 2016, an SUV driving on I-65 through Hobart crashed through several construction barrels before crossing into the construction zone and striking a 35-year old concrete worker, who died from his injuries.
When a worker is struck by a vehicle in a construction zone, the injuries are usually catastrophic. Paramedics, EMTs, firefighters and law enforcement officers rush to the scene, and the difference between life and death depends upon how well trained and equipped these first responders are to administer immediate care and transport injured workers or motorists to the hospital.
Our first responders are heroes, and giving them the tools they need to do their jobs is one of the best investments we can make in the safety of our roadways and the communities we live in. The Multi-Agency Academic Cooperative in Valparaiso is a cutting-edge facility that provides emergency preparedness and response training both in the classroom and in real-world scenarios.
IUOE Local 150, which represents the heavy equipment operators on these road projects, is proud to provide financial support to the MAAC and its mission. Through the Northern Indiana Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC, the union and its signatory employers contributed $10,000 to the MAAC earlier this year. This contribution, along with resources from other supporters, will ensure that first responders in Northwest Indiana have the best training available in the event that a tragedy occurs.
As you’re driving through construction zones this summer, remember that the men and women on the other side of the cones are people just like you, asking nothing more than to go home to their families after a hard day’s work. Slow down, keep your eyes on the road, and if you’re not sober, don’t drive. And when you see an ambulance or firetruck in your rear view mirror, get out of the way. For our first responders, every second counts.