The life-threatening danger drunk, speeding, distracted and fatigued drivers pose to members of highway construction crews came into the spotlight on October 23, 2014, in Beaufort County, South Carolina (SC). Shortly after 2 am that morning, a woman struck and killed a man who was helping to repave the intersection of SC 170 and Pearlstine Drive in the rural community of Okatie.
The at-fault driver initially fled the scene of the fatal accident, but state police tracked her down quickly based on eyewitnesses' descriptions of her vehicle. The woman now faces felony charges for causing a hit-and-run collision, taking a life and driving under the influence of alcohol. An investigation into whether the woman was exceeding the lowered work zone speed limit of 35 mph continues.
In the heavy traffic that followed through most of the morning, several other wrecks occurred. Individuals injured in those subsequent crashes mostly cited distraction as the reason they failed to slow or stop in time.
Another result of the deadly pedestrian accident was that police presence in highway work zones across the state increased throughout the weekend. As Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner told the Island Packet website, "We're going to slow these people down that aren't abiding by the requests to reduce their speed, and there will be tickets issued, All these guys and gals are asking for is a safe work zone, and it's absolutely imperative that they get that."
Road crews have little protection from injuries and death that drivers do not afford them. Reflective vests, warning signs, lights and barriers serve no purpose if people behind the wheels of cars and trucks do not reduce their speed, move over the maximum extent possible and remain alert to changing traffic patterns. Even minor negligence can lead to fatalities, to say nothing of the reckless behavior that is DUI.
My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our condolences to the friends and family members of the highway worker who lost his life. We also urge everyone to exercise caution when traveling through work zones.