DOTD holds press conference for Work Zone Awareness Week
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 2:12:05 PM
NEW ORLEANS, La. – Today, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development joined forces with some of its Destination Zero Deaths partners, which includes the Federal Highway Administration, Louisiana State Police, Louisiana Highway Safety Commission and various other stakeholders, to host a press conference at the Regional Transportation Management Center. This event was part of the state’s campaign to promote safe driving practices, especially emphasizing the need to use extreme caution when driving through work zones.

Nationally recognized and locally declared by Governor Jindal, Louisiana distinguished March 23-27 as Work Zone Awareness Week with the theme, “Expect the Unexpected.” District Administrator Chris Morvant represented DOTD at the event, along with Destination Zero Deaths partners Captain Donovan Archote of Louisiana State Police, and Tricia Keffer of the New Orleans Regional Traffic Safety Commission – an initiative of the Regional Planning Commission. Also in attendance were Bridget Gardner, a registered nurse and program coordinator with the Level 1 Trauma Center at Interim LSU Public Hospital, and the DOTD Strategic Highway Safety Plan Young Driver’s Emphasis area chairperson, as well as DOTD employee Benson Dabney.

In the past few months, three DOTD employees have been victims of work zone incidents. Dabney was one of them. In February, he was struck by an errant driver on Interstate 10 in Jefferson Parish while measuring striping along the Clearview Parkway exit ramp.

“These unfortunate incidents are a reminder of the dangers DOTD employees face as we perform our duties on the state’s highways and bridges. With so many distracted drivers on our roadways, we need to be even more attentive than in past and as this year’s theme states, “Expect the Unexpected,” said Morvant.

Further emphasizing the dangers of distracted driving, but also offering safety measures was Capt. Archote, “We remain devoted to highway safety and educating the public on the safety of the roads,” he said. “A few things the public can do to ensure safety in work zones is drive sober, avoid all distractions, buckle up, slow down and pay close attention to detours and other construction signage. The safety of construction workers and motorists is paramount.”

In New Orleans, a 579-safety cone memorial is displayed outside the Regional Transportation Management Center in recognition of those who lost their lives in work zones nationwide in 2013. Similar cone memorials are erected in other areas around the state. Of the 579, eight are positioned near the entrance of the RTMC to honor the number of Louisiana citizens who lost their lives in work zone incidents; additionally, 532 injuries occurred. Since 1989, 322 people have died from motor-vehicle crashes statewide. The data gathered is the most recent year for which figures were available from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Keffer, who serves as regional safety coordinator for the Traffic Safety Coalition, said “The safety of more vulnerable [roadway] users, including the women and men in work zones implementing projects that improve our roadways, is a priority for the [Traffic Safety] Coalition and its partners. From 2007 to 2013, transportation related fatalities dropped 30 percent and serious injuries by 15 percent. But, despite the headway that we’ve made, policy enforcement and infrastructure improvements can’t prevent all crashes. We want everyone to be engaged behind the wheel."

“Motor vehicle crashes are almost about half of what we do for our trauma activations at the trauma center and 100 percent of those are completely preventable,” said Gardner, who helps DOTD to identify engineering, enforcement, and education partners to help reduce the number of injuries and fatalities within the state of Louisiana. “There’s nothing worse than going out to go do your job, at work, and then suffering a brain or spinal cord injury. And, although we are equipped to take care of that – if we would slow down, drive sober, buckle up – we wouldn’t have those patients.”

Dabney arrived from rehabilitation therapy just as the event was ending. On February 20, he and several other DOTD employees were working at the Clearview Parkway exit in Jefferson Parish. He and a coworker had just completed measuring the roadway when both were struck by a driver crossing the gore zone – the striped triangle or V-shaped area that separates traffic at highway entrances and exits. The driver, believed to have missed their desired exit, went around a car to cut across the lane and severely injured the two, who were steps away from their work vehicle.

“People need to be more vigilant,” said Dabney. When you see the yellow lights, orange cones, workers in the area – pay attention to your surroundings and don’t be distracted. Mine and my coworker’s lives were changed in an instant because someone missed an exit. They should have just gone to the next one.”

In conjunction with Work Zone Awareness Week, DOTD launched its statewide “Vested Interest in Safety” Facebook campaign to display photos of companies, employees, community members and local leaders wearing orange safety vests throughout the state. The public is encouraged to participate by posting their “vested” photos on DOTD’s Facebook page or by submitting them via email “vested” photos to DOTD’s Public Affairs Office, Photos will be proudly displayed on the department’s Facebook page.

For more information about Work Zone Awareness or the department in general, please visit, email, or call DOTD’s Customer Service Center at (225) 379-1232 or 1-877-4LADOTD (1-877-452-3683). Business hours are 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Motorists can access up-to-date travel information by dialing 511 or by visiting Out of-state travelers can call 1-888-ROAD-511 (1-888-762-3511).