wsdot logoDisplays in Wenatchee, Ephrata & Okanogan honor North Central Region employees who died on the job

WENATCHEE – Each year WSDOT holds a ceremony to remember the 60 workers we’ve lost on the job since 1950, honor our workers injured on the job and remind everyone about the need for work zone safety awareness.

Orange barrels

Last April in Olympia, we placed 60 orange traffic barrels on the Capital Campus along Capitol Way near the WSDOT Headquarters and the Capital Dome.

Each barrel represents one of the 60 WSDOT workers killed on the job since 1950.

The display raised awareness about work zone safety and reminded all travelers that our workers put their lives on the line every day.

This year all the regions are placing individual displays across the state starting Monday, April 8.

North Central Region has three outdoor displays in place through Friday, April 12:

  • North Central Region Office, Euclid Ave., Wenatchee
  • Area 2 Maintenance Office, SR 28, Ephrata
  • Area 3 Maintenance Office, US 97, Okanogan

These displays include an orange Work Zone Safety Banner and four barrels to honor the four employees from our region who died on the job:

  • Frank E. Potter, Dec. 1, 1950, North Central Region, Maintenance Laborer. Frank was killed on US 2 when a car skidded into him while trying to slow down in a work zone east of Leavenworth.
  • Ray Wittig, Feb. 4, 1952, North Central Region, maintenance lead technician. Ray was killed on US 2 when he was buried in a snowslide while working in Tumwater Canyon, west of Leavenworth.
  • Ray T. Collie, Feb. 28, 1970, North Central Region, maintenance technician. Ray died a week after being struck by a truck on US 2 just west of Stevens Pass in a work zone as he was setting cones.
  • Gordon Burlingame, July 17, 1992, North Central Region, Avalanche Control Supervisor. “Gordie” was working alone dismantling a 22-foot high radio tower from the roof of a dormitory building at Berne Camp on Stevens Pass when it became unstable and fell on him.

Employees in work zones are husbands, fathers, brothers, wives, mothers, sisters, children and friends – and they all deserve to go home safe at the end of their day. Far too many of them have had close calls, serious injuries and deaths in our work zones. Our workers have had to literally run for their lives and/or jump over guardrails due to speeding, inattentive/distracted drivers, impairment, etc.

By the Numbers

Nationally:

  • There’s a collision in a work zone every 5.4 minutes
  • About 650 people are killed across the country each year in roadway work zones.

Washington State:

  • Washington averages 768 roadway work zone injuries a year.
  • In 2018:
    • 1,498 reported collisions in a work zone or a related back-up.
    • 615 reported injuries.
    • 11 fatal crashes.
  • Travelers are more at risk in work zones than the workers:
  • In 2018:
    • 94% of our work zone fatalities and injuries were drivers, passengers or pedestrians

Driving Distracted through work zones

Distracted/inattentive driving is now the leading cause of work zone crashes on state highways.

Last year 539 distracted/inattentive driver citations were issued for state work zone crashes.

Our crews say they regularly see drivers looking at phones or other devices and blowing past our signs to slow down or stop; putting everyone on the road at risk.

Those who are speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and now electronics (E-DUI) also find those citations are even more expensive as traffic fines are doubled in work zones.

  • First E-DUI ticket - $136
  • Second E-DUI ticket in 5 years - $234
  • All E-DUI tickets are reported to insurance companies and can lead to higher rates.
  • Other forms of distracted driving (not involving electronic devices) earn a $99 ticket

Work zone crashes are almost-always preventable.

The top three reasons for work zone collisions in 2018 were:

  • distracted driving/inattention,
  • following too closely,
  • excessive speed.

We Need Help

Our crews work where traffic is speeding literally inches away and we need your help keeping both you and them safe:

  • Slow Down -- drive the posted speeds, they’re there for your safety.
  • Be Kind – our workers are helping to keep you safe and improve the roadways.
  • Pay Attention -- both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic.
  • Stay Calm -- expect delays, leave early or take an alternate route if possible; no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone’s life.

Both the national and our Washington state Work Zone Awareness events take place during April 8-12.

  • The National Work Zone Awareness Week event is April 9, in Washington, DC.
  • WSDOT’s Worker Memorial ceremony is April 10, in Olympia.
  • April 10 is also national “Wear Orange for Safety Day”.

Add comment


Security code
Refresh