A state highway crew member suffered nearly fatal injuries when a driver ran off the left side of I-85 in central Virginia and pinned him against the guardrail he had been repairing. The work zone collision happened near the line where Petersburg becomes Dinwiddie County.
Virginia State Police responded to the report of the crash at around 4:30 pm on Friday, March 18, 2018. They found the VDOT contractor from Chesapeake stuck between the car and the guardrail. He remained hospitalized in critical condition through the weekend.
Troopers took the driver into custody and filed preliminary charges for reckless driving, failing to maintain control and driving with a suspended license. The last alleged offense would be the ninth time the woman has been caught driving without a valid license.
Virginia, like most other states, enforces a statute called the “move over law” to protect road crews, law enforcement personnel, tow truck operators and emergency medical technicians. Drivers who enter work zones, approach traffic stops or see wrecks beside the highway have a legal duty to slow down and, if possible, change lanes to give individuals working on the shoulder a safety buffer.
The driver who hit and severely injured the VDOT contractor alongside I-85 in Dinwiddie county obviously failed to move over. Similar acts of negligence and recklessness occur far too often. The Federal Highway Administration’s latest report shows that during 2015, an estimated 96,626 crashes happened in work zones around the United States. That number represented a 42 percent increase over such events in 2013.
Providing another way to perceive the danger of not moving over, the FHWA noted that
- A work zone crash occurred once every 5.4 minutes.
- Every day, 70 work zone crashes occurred that resulted in at least one injury.
- Every week, 12 work zone crashes occurred that resulted in at least one fatality.
Driver distraction leads to many of these wrecks. When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed distracted driving crashes during 2014, its researchers found that that the principal distractions came from interacting with a passenger (15 percent), using a cellphone (6 percent) and using climate or radio controls (4 percent). The agency also discovered that “520 nonoccupants (e.g., pedestrians and cyclists) died in a crash that involved a distracted driver.”
Findings like these prompted a VDOT spokeswoman commenting on the I-85 crash to ask drivers to put down their phones when they get behind the wheel. She also said in speaking with Richmond-area TV station WRIC that everyone stays safer when drivers keep their eyes ahead and check for workers.
“Practice extra caution in work zones,” the spokeswoman said, “so that drivers can get home safely and so can our contract workers can get home safely, as well.”
The injured VDOT contractor will likely have access to medical and disability coverage through workers’ compensation. He or his family should also consult with an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer to discuss their legal options for seeking compensation and damages from the at-fault driver. Applying for workers’ comp claims does not prevent a victim from filing insurance claims or a civil lawsuit against a third party such as a reckless driver. While the driver who caused this work zone crash in Dinwiddie County is unlikely to have her own car insurance policy since she her license has been suspended so many times, victims do have ways to hold uninsured drivers financially accountable for the harm they inflict.