Friday, April 24, 2020

Staying safe as easy as moving over

By Ryan Overton

Shane McCandless says it's not a matter of if it will happen, but when it will happen. As an Incident Response Team member, Shane spends his days working around live traffic and he knows the risks. He knows them all too well.

That's because seven years ago, it did happen to him. And he remembers it like it was yesterday.

At the time, Shane was part of a crew responsible for maintenance and plowing a stretch of I-90 through downtown Spokane, one of the busiest sections of road in the area. It was around noon on a mid-October day.
IRT driver Shane McCandless activates this message on his truck when he's helping a driver
to remind people to follow the law and give him room to work.

The job was simple; inspect the overhead sign boards on eastbound I-90. The crew was nearing the Division Street off-ramp at milepost 281. They had already set out pre-warning signs and they had a truck with its sign board turned on warning drivers of the upcoming work zone stationed at the Monroe Street on-ramp gore point. Shane was next in line in a road warrior truck that was mounted with an attenuator, an accordion-like device that is a buffer and absorbs the effect of a crash while shielding the workers ahead. In front of him was a second attenuator truck just behind the crew inspecting the overhead signs.

As he sat in the truck, Shane recalls people zipping by, not moving over at all for the work zone. He watched as a small SUV in the right lane quickly come up behind him and he said he knew he was going to get hit.

"I watched her come up all the way behind me, texting the entire time," he said.
Shane McCandless was involved in a work zone collision in 2013 that he still clearly remembers
seven years later. Fortunately, he wasn't injured.

Shane tensed up and braced for the impact. Within seconds the vehicle slammed into the back of the truck, compressing the attenuator like an accordion. Fortunately, it did its jobs, leaving Shane with just soreness and the other driver uninjured. It could have been much worse and we're glad both parties walked away.

Since then, Shane has transferred over to the Incident Response Team and patrols highways without the benefit of carrying an attenuator on his truck to protect him. Whether helping someone change a flat tire, pushing a stranded vehicle off the highway or helping clean up at a collision, Shane is on the front line helping keep people safe while working around live traffic.
And he and other road workers in turn need your help to keep them safe.
It's state law to move over for all emergency response vehicles, including our Incident Response Team trucks.

Move Over, Slow Down
The Move Over Slow Down law requires any vehicle approaching emergency workers on the side of the highway – including Incident Response Team and maintenance workers – to move over one traffic lane if they can. If they can't, they must slow down to 10 mph below the posted speed limit. If an emergency vehicle is using audible or visual signs that it is responding to an incident – for example a truck with flashing lights, or a siren – whether they are moving or not, drivers are required to move over, or at least slow down.

While the law has been on the books for several years, many drivers still seem to not know about it. Shane said he hopes that changes. He's been in too many situations where drivers were so close to him they nearly rubbed mirrors with his truck. It's a huge safety concern, and he tries to remind people of the law by flashing "WA ST LAW – MOVE OVER" on his truck's sign board.

Ultimately, all he wants for him and his co-workers is to be able to do his job safely and go home in one piece at the end of the day.

"I hope people can limit distractions and pay more attention on the road," he said. "I have a son and a granddaughter, and it scares me each and every day that I may not get to go home and see them."