JEFFERSON CITY - Five MoDOT striping crews were involved in crashes and narrowly escaped injuries while painting brighter, more visible lines on Missouri roads this spring. No MoDOT employees suffered serious injuries, however, the driver of a semi-truck was killed in one of the crashes. Inattention, impairment, speeding, following too closely and texting while driving are all suspected as the causes of the crashes.
"Driving is a job that demands your full attention," said Don Hillis, MoDOT System Management director. "Distractions are easy to come by, but please protect yourself and our highway crews and concentrate on the road."
When MoDOT sets up a striping operation, several trucks, sometimes as many as three, travel behind the paint truck to warn drivers to slow down and change lanes. The trucks are equipped with TMAs - truck mounted attenuators -- at the rear bumper, which are filled with a material designed to absorb the energy of the crash and provide a barrier of protection.
"Those trucks have several flashing lights, several orange signs, and they actually have an arrow that will flash and direct drivers around it. So we are pretty lit up," said John Russell, regional maintenance supervisor for MoDOT in St. Louis.
These striping crews avoided serious injuries by mere inches:
· The driver of a car on Interstate 44 near St. Clair barely avoided hitting a striping crew on March 26 by swerving at the last minute, but in the process she rolled her car numerous times. It took several hours to attend to the driver's needs and get the crash cleared and the striping operation back on track.
· On March 30, on Interstate 270 at the Tesson Ferry exit near St. Louis, a motorist driving about 60 miles an hour rear-ended a TMA driven by Martin Connell, a MoDOT intermediate maintenance worker. The driver received two tickets and totaled his car but was not injured in the crash.
· MoDOT Senior Maintenance Worker Ted Hargis was driving a TMA behind a striping crew on April 22. They were on Interstate 29 near the Mound City exit when he looked in the rearview mirror and saw two semis, side by side, coming straight for him. At the last moment, one semi swerved back into the other lane, just clipping the TMA. The TMA was totaled and the front axle was ripped from the semi. The semi driver admitted inattention was the cause of the crash. Everyone was wearing a seat belt and no one was injured.
· A striping crew in downtown St. Louis barely escaped injury on May 12 when a semi-truck driver who was passing a striping operation passed three TMAs and then clipped the yellow paint carriage on the striper, nearly ripping it from the truck. The semi narrowly missed the driver's head and the crash spilled paint and glass reflective beads onto the roadway. The tractor-trailer fled the scene and hit another car at the next intersection where he was arrested. The highway workers were shaken, but not seriously injured.
· James Evans, a seasonal worker for MoDOT, was on his first day back for the summer season on May18 when the TMA truck he was driving as part of a striping crew was struck on Interstate 70 near Concordia. A semi-truck ran into the back end of the MoDOT truck and it rolled twice before coming to rest in the middle of the median. Evans was wearing a seat belt and was able to walk away from the crash.
MoDOT crews will be out improving Missouri roads throughout the summer months. Please buckle up, watch for signs, slow down and stay alert when you are driving through a work zone.
Between 2004 and 2008, 79 people were killed in work zones. Since 2000, 15 MoDOT employees have been killed in the line of duty. Hitting and injuring or killing a highway worker in Missouri could result in a fine up to $10,000 and loss of your license for a year.
To find out more about work zones or to rate a work zone in your area, please visit http://www.modot.org/ or call 888-ASK-MODOT.