Work Zone Awareness Week: Construction worker recalls close call

ROANOKE, Va. – Virginia Department of Transportation officials are reminding citizens that construction sites can turn tragic in the blink of an eye.

Work Zone Awareness Week is underway, and more construction sites are popping up due to warmer temperatures.

VDOT Supervisor Tammie Sowers said only a traffic cone stands between a crew and a car sometimes. Work crews are literally putting their lives on the line every day.

“I don’t want to be the one to go to somebody’s door and say I’m sorry, this happened today,” Sowers said.

Just a few months ago that was almost the case for Sowers.

“A citizen came through there, hit our backhoe, and the impact of the hit was so hard it lifted the gentleman that was in the backhoe up out of his seat,” Sowers said. “If he wouldn’t have had his seatbelt on he would have went out of the back of the backhoe.”

Luckily, the accident wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but that’s not always the case.

“We do know in Virginia last year there were 22 people killed in highway work zones across our state,” VDOT spokesperson Jason Bond said.

Just last summer a VDOT contractor was killed after a hit and run involving a tractor trailer on Interstate 81, near the 581 exit.

The Clifton Forge native was wearing a traffic vest in an active work zone and had just finished paving for the widening project.

Sowers says days on the road can be risky.

“When we are out there working and they don’t pay attention to us, it’s very scary,” Sowers said.

VDOT said if you stay off your phone, slow down and abide by road signs, you can protect yourself and others.

“Our folks are out there working, highway workers, contractors out there building and maintaining roads,” Bond said. “They want to come home to their families just how you want to go home safe at night.”

About the Author:

Amy Cockerham joined the 10 News team in January 2023.