Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Help Incident Response Team help you by being safe in work zones

By Mike Allende

I've gone on several ride-alongs with John, a member of our Incident Response Team (IRT), to show the fantastic work their group does to keep our highways safe. I always marvel at the way he maneuvers through traffic, exiting his vehicle as traffic zips closely by to help a stranded motorist, clear some debris or assist at a crash.

During those ride-alongs, John and I talk a lot and it usually comes back to our families. He's incredibly proud of his kids and his grandkids – his face lights up when he's talking about them, and I know how much they all depend on each other.

So my heart sank Tuesday when I learned that John was involved in a serious crash that blocked much of westbound I-90 across Lake Washington around 10:30 a.m. We never like anyone to be hurt on the roads, but when it's a friend the feeling is magnified. It was a huge relief when I heard that John was OK.

A serious-injury collision involving a WSDOT IRT truck Tuesday morning
blocked much of westbound I-90 across Lake Washington.

The incident was scary, but unfortunately it's one we see all too often. John did everything right – he set up his truck and activated his traffic arrow sign and emergency lights before leaving his vehicle to assist a disabled tour bus on the right shoulder. The State Patrol said that's when a van traveling at high speed ran into John's truck. Fortunately, John was far enough away to escape injury, but the driver of the other vehicle – who wasn't wearing a seatbelt – was seriously hurt and the express lanes were blocked for 1½ hours.
Fortunately our IRT worker escaped injury during Tuesday's collision
but the driver of the other vehicle was seriously hurt
(picture from Washington State Patrol).

The driver of the van was later arrested for DUI.

John got lucky, but it isn't always the case. Last year a worker was seriously hurt near Aberdeen, and we regularly see work-zone collisions or close calls. In most cases, 97 percent in fact, it's someone in the non-DOT vehicle who is injured, so while we want our workers safe, it's in your best interest to be safe near work zones too.

Pay attention to signs warning of lane closures. Slow down and give workers space. Focus on the road; everything else can wait. And of course always stay sober behind the wheel.

John and the rest of our IRT group don't look at what they do as anything special. They know it's dangerous, but to them, it's just their job. They take great pride in helping people and keeping you, your friends and your family safe. Please do your part and help keep John and his teammates safe so they can go home to their families.