SUMMIT COUNTY (ABC4 News) – Each year, Utah sees an average of 12 work zone fatalities. That’s why for National Work Zone Awareness Week, officials with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) are urging Utahns to practice safe driving habits.
Morgan McCarthy, a Park City shop supervisor for UDOT, knows the importance of work zone safety first-hand. He nearly lost his life on the day of his daughter’s 7th birthday.
He recalls it was July 20, 2017, when he was conducting annual structure inspections with his team in Jeremy Ranch around 10:30 a.m. when something was wrong.
“I noticed a semi coming down the shoulder of the road,” he said. “I took off running around the front of my truck, trying to avoid getting hit. But the semi hit my truck, which then hit me and threw me up 20 to 30 feet under another state vehicle.”
McCarthy said he’s lucky to be alive after suffering a hematoma, whiplash, and multiple injuries to his shoulder, back, and legs.
“Luckily, I was being alert and checking my surroundings,” he said. “I’m here today because I saw the semi coming at me. I think it just wasn’t my time to go. It was my daughter’s birthday and somebody said, ‘You’re going to stay here a while. Keep doing what you’re doing.'”
But not everyone is as lucky as McCarthy. According to UDOT, the state of Utah averages 2,705 work zone crashes and 12 work zone fatalities each year (using numbers from 2009 to 2018).
Transportation officials offer the following safety tips for driving safely in work zones:
- Drive the posted speed limit.
- Pay 100 percent attention to the roadway, as lanes are often narrowed and shifted for construction.
- Eliminate distracting activities, such as changing radio/music, using mobile devices (surfing, tweeting, talking, texting), eating and drinking, putting on makeup, and reaching while driving.
- Minimize lane changes within the work zone.
- Merge into the proper lane well before you reach a lane closure.
- Watch out for workers and their equipment in the zone, as they can be especially hard to see at night.
- Remember, fines are doubled in work zones, so slow down.
McCarthy eventually returned to work with UDOT seven months after the crash, but admits, some days are difficult.
“It’s frustrating. In a split second, you don’t know what’s going to happen. There are days out on the road where I’m a lot more cautious on what I’m doing or what activity we’re out there doing on the side of the road,” he said. “It’s a game-changer for me.”
At the end of the day, he said work zone employees are more than the people we see in helmets and vests.
“All of them have families and kids,” said McCarthy. “Everybody here that works for me and everybody at UDOT, I want to see them go home to their family, you know?”