By Gavin Jenkins, Senior Managing Editor
As the 24th National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) draws to a close, the road and bridge construction industry pays tribute to those who have died with a moment of silence.
A national campaign of this magnitude takes a lot of work. Each year, the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) join forces to plan how they are going to raise awareness, get more people involved, and try to save lives.
And less than a month ago, as they were putting the final touches on planning this week’s campaign, the industry suffered one of its most shocking losses to date.
On Wednesday, March 22, six construction workers were killed along Interstate-695 in Baltimore County, Maryland, after Lisa Adrienna Lea, 54, lost control of her car.
Lea, who was driving an Acura, struck a Volkswagen while trying to change lanes. The crash caused her to lose control, according to reports, and she veered into a highway work zone, between the temporary jersey walls.
Police issued a statement the next day naming the six workers killed: Rolando Ruiz, 46; brothers Carlos Orlando Villatoro Escobar, 43, and Jose Armando Escobar, 52; Mahlon Simmons III, 31; Mahlon Simmons II, 52; and Sybil Lee Dimaggio, 46. The Simmons were a father and son.
That there were six victims and two sets of relatives made the accident national news, and there has been an outpouring of condolences inside and outside the industry.
“All of our thoughts go out to all of those families whose loved ones aren’t coming home,” said Stacy Tetschner, president and CEO of ATSSA.
Tetschner said that this crash made his ATSSA team pause.
“A crash like that takes the wind out of what you’re doing,” he said. “We’re gearing up [for National Work Zone Awareness Week], and we have this great message. And then that happened, and it made us all stop and think. In addition to saying ‘Not again.’ We’re also saying, ‘Not again at that magnitude.’”
Tetschner added that the most disheartening part of the crash in Maryland is that he knows it could have been avoided.
The NWZAW moment of silence began last year, and its purpose is to encourage companies and families to come together for reflection to honor the people who lost their lives in a work zone incident. R&B