In a terrible tragedy out of Rockingham County, Virginia, safety officials say one man is dead after being hit by a vehicle on the exit ramp of I-81 in Harrisonburg. The person who was killed was a member of a road crew and was in an active work zone at the time of the accident.
According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, the accident occurred just after 2 a.m. at exit 251. The person hit by the car was a contract employee for VDOT and was busy working when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle.
Given how recent the accident occurred, safety officials have not yet released information about what may have caused the accident or if the person who killed the road crew worker will face criminal charges.
Unfortunately, accidents like the one in Rockingham County are not nearly as rare as many people might expect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 850 accidental deaths occur in highway construction/work zones across the country each and every year. The number of injuries that occur in the work zones are substantially higher, numbering more than 40,000 per year.
Of those injured or killed in construction zone accidents, the vast majority are actually drivers or passengers in vehicles passing through the work zones; only 15 percent of those killed are workers. However, even this percentage is far too high and needs to be addressed by those in positions of authority.
Experts say that worker safety should be a top concern among those in charge of road construction projects and that simply lowering the speed limit in the work zone and threatening drivers with increased fines is not enough. Motorists should be given advanced warning about changes in traffic patterns or lane shifts and engineers should strive to ensure that traffic continues to flow smoothly through the work zone. Sudden stops, sudden merges or lane shifts can all increase the risk of death or injury to both motorists and those simply working to earn a living.
Our hearts go out to the family of the person worker who was killed. Losing a loved one is never easy, but when that person dies suddenly while trying to provide for himself and his family, during a seemingly ordinary day at work, it can be even more difficult to understand.
Here's a Google Map showing the location of the accident in Harrisonburg, VA.