In an ironic and tragic accident, the Alabama Department of Transportation identified one of its own workers killed in a fatal work zone accident on Interstate 65 north near Priceville on Thursday, April 14. The ALDOT reported that Jacob Smith, a 35-year-old employee from Athens, was killed in the accident, while his co-worker Kenneth Hopper was rushed to a nearby hospital.
The two men were removing traffic control barrels while conducting repairs on the Tennessee River Bridge. The two drivers involved in the crash were also injured.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mr. Smith, and we hope and pray for a speedy recovery for Mr. Hopper,” ALDOT Director John Cooper said in a statement released after the crash. “This tragic incident is a sobering reminder that we all must do everything we can to keep our highways safe. Motorists must slow down, watch out for highway workers and safely move over when passing work crews.”
According to a flyer created to promote National Work Zone Safety Week, this year’s theme was “Don’t be THAT Driver,” and that “This national event was created to focus attention on work zone safety and work zone workers. Since the creation of the national campaign the number of work zone fatalities has dropped significantly.”
The campaign is important because roadside workers are particularly at risk. According to one survey from the American Society of Safety Engineers, fully 98% of respondents said they had seen workers misusing or avoiding proper safety equipment. But even when workers take all the precautions required by both law and common sense, a distracted driver sending a text can still end a life.
Even among police officers, the majority of officer fatalities occur on the side of the road during a traffic stop.