Death of local construction worker serves as work zone safety re - WNEM TV 5

Death of local construction worker serves as work zone safety reminder

Posted: Updated:
Source: MDOT Source: MDOT
ST. CLAIR SHORES, MI (WNEM) -

Justin and Amy Vallad were expecting their second child and settling into their new home in Standish near the Saginaw Bay when unexpected tragedy changed things forever.  

Justin, a 27-year-old construction worker, was killed March 10, 2012 while in a work zone on I-94 at 12 Mile Road in St. Clair Shores.

Now, the Michigan Department of Transportation is using Justin’s story to send drivers a wakeup call to pay attention and drive safely at all times.

“Justin's death is just one example of many tragedies in Michigan and throughout the country that can happen when drivers lose focus or don't follow the rules in a work zone,” MDOT said.

National Work Zone Awareness Week kicks off April 9.

To show your support for the Vallad family, and for the safety of road workers and all motorists, MDOT and its statewide safety partners ask you to Go Orange this Wednesday. To participate, share a photo on social media of you or your team wearing orange, including the hashtags #Orange4Safety and #NWZAW.

There were 4,204 work zone crashes in 2017, according to MDOT. Among those, 25 were deadly.

"Sometimes people don't pay attention and end up in our way," said Martin Szepanski, owner of Eric Construction. "We're just out here trying to make a living. And if we lose our life or something like that, then it's a catastrophe. It really is."

Robert Ranck, regional engineer for MDOT, said drivers should always think of the people on the other side of the orange barrels.

"Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of the work zone that's there. There's a lot of things happening. To keep your eyes straight on the road would really help," Ranck said.

Ranck said he spent nine years in work zones and has had his fair share of close calls.

"Your heart can race and you can make sure that you thank God for everything that happens out there and you hope to get home alive," Ranck said.

MDOT said fines, points on your license and jail time are all in play if you hit or kill someone in a work zone.

Szepanski has one piece of advice on how you can avoid problems - slow down.

"The biggest thing is speed. You know, if you're going slow they have a chance to stop. If they're going fast, it just takes a longer time to stop," Szepanski said.

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