Oregon State Police Lt. Bob Charpentier pulled over a driver for speeding on I-5 south of Wilsonville Wednesday, a routine of a traffic stop but one with a targeted message in the wake of a recent tragedy.
Just this week, Knife River Corporation construction crews returned to a road paving project after taking three weeks off to mourn the loss of a veteran crew member who died after he was struck in a hit-and-run accident on the job site near Aurora.
Ronald Davis died in the hospital a few days after he and another co-worker were struck earlier this month by a hit-and-run driver while hopping in-and-out of their work truck picking up barriers from the project.
“It’s a difficult situation to come back out to a work zone where that tragedy occurred,” Knife River’s Northwest President Brian Gray said. “This is the first week back since Ron’s death and we only have half the team that was out there that evening, back out here tonight – the other half – they’re still recovering.”
It’s a grim risk the road construction industry faces, and two other workers in the metro area died on the job in recent days and weeks.
According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, an average of six workers die in construction zones every year, and a crash occurs in a work zone every 18 hours in Oregon.
Following the most recent deaths, OSP teamed up with ODOT to plan a special traffic safety blitz, targeting the area where Davis died and where his coworkers continue their project of repaving 12 miles of road between Boone Bridge and Woodburn.
OSP troopers pulled over drivers for unsafe driving habits like speeding, following too closely and distracted driving. Charpentier said it was also an opportunity to connect with drivers and educate them on the laws of driving in work zones.
“We’ve got to slow down and pay attention,” he advised. “Focus on what’s ahead of you and what’s around you. Let’s be proactive and make sure we’re doing the right thing.”
In addition to the safety lessons, drivers were reminded that tickets in a work zone are hefty.
“So the speed – 65 in a 50 -- is $325. That one’s double,” Charpentier explained while typing on his computer following another stop.
FOX 12 asked OSP how many citations were issued Wednesday night, but the total was still unclear as of midday Thursday. A spokeswoman for the department said at least one ticket was issued in the four-hour operation.
Gray said he appreciated the extra set of eyes bringing an extra layer of awareness to an already brightly-colored zone. He hopes it will remind people to slow down and drive safe in the future.
“We’ve got signs, we’ve got construction work zone barrels and cones, and unfortunately people become numb to that amber-colored light,” he said. “We are in harm’s way and we’re trying to improve the roads and we want to go home at night.”
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