The Delaware post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol is investigating a crash involving a commercial vehicle that killed an ODOT worker Monday on northbound Interstate 71, near mile post 124, in Delaware County.
Lee Rizor, the ODOT worker, was operating a backhoe on the right berm about 9:20 a.m. when a commercial vehicle drove off the right side of the roadway, striking the backhoe, troopers said. The commercial vehicle then flipped over and became engulfed in flames.
Rizor, 27, of Mt. Gilead was declared dead at the scene.
The driver of the commercial vehicle, Dwayne Allen Hill Sr., 59, of Ashland, Va., was transported to the OSU Wexner Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition Monday night.
The accident restricted northbound traffic for some time Monday. Both lanes and all ramps are now re-open.
This crash remains under investigation, troopers said.
Ironically, the state Highway Patrol issued a press release last week urging work zone safety and revealing that highway construction work zone deaths doubled from 2009 to 2011. Below is that release, issued one week before Monday's fatal accident:
More people are dying in highway construction work zones as a result of vehicle crashes. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of deaths in construction zones because of vehicle crashes doubled from eight in 2009 to 16 in 2011 in Ohio. Those numbers are the most recent available and include both motorists and construction workers. Meanwhile, ODOT is piloting a new program aimed at reducing vehicle crashes and making construction work zones safer.
“ODOT tries to do all we can to ensure families and construction workers are safe on Ohio’s highways,” said Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray. “Motorists can do their part too, by slowing down, driving the posted speed limit, staying alert, and avoiding distractions – especially cell phone distractions.”
ODOT discussed ways to improve work zone safety at the agency’s official start of National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week in Columbus. The event was aimed at saving lives and preventing injuries in work zones and included a demonstration of a new piece of equipment that could help reduce the number of crashes in construction work zones.
ODOT is piloting the new safety weapon, known as variable speed limit trailers. The portable devices come with technology that can be programmed to display a safer, slower speed, but only on the stretches of roadway where construction workers are present.
Around the state, there are 10 construction projects this year that will pilot the use of variable speed limit signs:
· Franklin County – Resurfacing and pavement repair on Interstate 71
· Henry County – Resurfacing a four-lane highway on U.S. Routes 6/24
· Portage County – Spot pavement repairs on interstate 76
· Fairfield/Licking Counties – Bridge maintenance and repairs at various locations on Interstate 70
· Madison County – Pavement repairs at various locations on Interstate 70
· Montgomery County – Pavement repairs at various locations on U.S. Route 35 west of Interstate 75
· Shelby County – Pavement repairs at various locations on Interstate 75
· Ross/Pike Counties – Resurfacing of U.S. Route 23
· Two projects in Athens County – Resurfacing of U.S. Routes 33 and 32/50
An ODOT analysis revealed that 56,945 vehicle crashes occurred in Ohio work zones from 2003 to 2012. Of those crashes, 20,590 happened when construction workers were present. In fact, a person is more likely to be injured or killed in a work zone on a dry and sunny August afternoon than any other time of year.
The top causes of work zone crashes are speed, following too closely, failure to control and improper lane changes.