Safety trumps ag­gra­va­tion

County eyes road crew protection af­ter in­ci­dent with 80-year-old driver

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH BOLLINGER jbollinger@star­dem.com

EAS­TON — In the af­ter­math of Tal­bot County’s roads su­per­in­ten­dent be­ing hit and in­jured by a mo­torist in Au­gust while county crews worked on a stretch of road, county of­fi­cials want to stress to the public the im­por­tance of work zone safety.

“It’s a prob­lem that we need to make sure the cit­i­zens and vis­i­tors of this county are aware of, and that there’s a greater un­der­stand­ing that we’re not do­ing it (road work) to ag­gra­vate or to slow down or de­lay peo­ple, as much as do­ing our job to bet­ter the com­mu­nity,” Tal­bot County Man­ager Andy Hol­lis said.

On Aug. 18, County Roads Su­per­in­tended War­ren Ed­wards and crews were on Sta­tion Road fixing a pipe that needed to be re­paired. Ed­wards was hit by Royal Oak r es­i­dent Colin Clive Pat­ten­den, 80, af­ter he ig­nored signs and a flag­ger, and was warned by Ed­wards him­self not to travel down the road crews were work­ing on.

“This mo­torist chose to go through, was stopped, and then chose to get back in his ve­hi­cle, put it in drive and pro­ceed any­way with Mr. Ed­wards’ life in peril, and I’m not even em­bel­lish­ing,” Hol­lis said. “I’m not over-ex­ag­ger­at­ing when I say he lit­er­ally could have been killed.”

Pat­ten­den was con­victed of sec­ond-de­gree as­sault

and in­ten­tion­ally run­ning his pickup truck into Ed­wards, but took an Al­ford plea, mean­ing he main­tained his in­no­cence but ad­mit­ted the pros­e­cu­tor had enough ev­i­dence to con­vict him. He was or­dered to serve 18 months of pro­ba­tion and un­dergo men­tal health eval­u­a­tions and anger man­age­ment ther­apy.

Ed­wards suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries as a re­sult of the in­ci­dent. In a pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle in The Star Demo­crat, Pat­ten­den’s at­tor­ney, Stephanie Ship­ley, was quoted as say­ing in court that there were no road con­struc­tion signs on Sta­tion Road that day. Ed­wards said there were signs, one on each end of the road out­side the area where crews were work­ing, and two flag­gers set up on ei­ther side, too — a stan­dard pro­ce­dure he al­ways uses.

“War­ren’s case is a a prime ex­am­ple how in­creas­ingly, at least at the lo­cal level, you feel a lack of re­gard for proper sig­nage and in­struc­tion, de­tour­ing and things of that sort,” Hol­lis said.

“Un­der War­ren’s lead­er­ship down at the roads depart­ment, we have so fo­cused and in­creased our fo­cus on safety, and it’s to his credit,” Hol­lis said. “But even in spite of that, what War­ren is telling me — and cer­tainly his sit­u­a­tion is an ex­am­ple — the threats, the chal­lenges, the lack of con­cern over re­spect by the mo­tor­ing public is in­creas­ing, not de­creas­ing.”

There have been other in­stances of work zone in­juries in Tal­bot County. In 2014, a flag­ger con­trol­ling traf­fic on St. Michaels Road dur­ing a con­struc­tion op­er­a­tion was hit and killed.

Na­tion­ally, a work zone crash oc­curs on av­er­age once ev­ery 5.4 min­utes, and ev­ery day, 70 work zone crashes hap­pen that re­sulted in at least one in­jury, and 12 work zone crashes hap­pen that re­sulted in at least one fa­tal­ity, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion. In 2014, there were 669 fa­tal­i­ties from crashes in work zones, which equates to 2 per­cent of all road­way fa­tal­i­ties.

Del. Johnny Mautz, R-37BTal­bot, said crews were on Sta­tion Road that day af­ter a stan­dard re­quest from his of­fice, and when he got the text Ed­wards had been hit, it was “heart-break­ing.”

Since then, in his dis­cus­sions with other road work­ers, Mautz said “vir­tu­ally ev­ery flag man I’ve talked to” has shared in­ci­dents about be­ing “ha­rassed, if not as­saulted on the job.”

He now is con­sid­er­ing leg­is­la­tion to ad­dress charges and the points sys­tem in work zone ac­ci­dents.

“It’s a very dan­ger­ous job, more dan­ger­ous that I have known be­fore,” Mautz said.

Ed­wards sees that from mo­torists ev­ery day, he said.

“Ev­ery time we have a work zone, at least one per­son a day comes through an­gry, is run­ning late, yells be­cause we didn’t give them a per­sonal phone call,” he said.

Most Tal­bot County roads don’t have shoul­ders, “so if we have a lane clo­sure or a work zone, as much as we can, we try to do what’s called through-traf­fic only,” Ed­wards said.

An­other chal­lenge for Tal­bot is of­ten there will be mul­ti­ple projects on the same road, Ed­wards said. There could be a county roads crew fixing a pot­hole, and fur­ther down the road there’s a crew from a phone com­pany work­ing on a util­ity pole.

The county wants to get the mes­sage out to mo­torists — pay at­ten­tion to the road and any road work signs, and pos­si­bly most of all, fol­low di­rec­tions. If a sign says no en­try, don’t de­cide to drive down the road any­way — “it’s not an op­tion to com­ply with go­ing through a work zone or not,” Hol­lis said.

“This isn’t just a ca­sual is­sue. This is a big deal that, un­for­tu­nately, be­cause of the sec­ond-de­gree as­sault con­vic­tion with the Al­ford plea, doesn’t carry the weight it should,” Hol­lis said. “We need to get the mes­sage out to the public that this is a big deal. It’s not a joke, and peo­ple’s lives are truly at stake, and it’s not op­tion whether you’re go­ing to com­ply or not.”

WAR­REN ED­WARDS

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