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B.C. roadside workers brace for another summer of reckless drivers

For traffic control crews, summer’s arrival means an already dangerous job gets even more hazardous

Tammy Simpson has watched as a driver rear-ended a company truck after going through almost 200 metres of a closed roadway at night.

Her co-worker was struck in the incident and rushed to hospital. The truck was totalled. The driver had been texting while at the wheel.

She said that this accident, unfortunately, is not uncommon. Roadside workers are set for another summer worrying for their safety this summer, as reckless drivers continue to put them in danger.

Sampson has worked in traffic control for 30 years. Her company, Road Safety B.C., employs crews in work zones around the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.

“As traffic control people we put a lot of trust in the travelling public,” Sampson said in a statement. “It only takes one who breaks the rules to create the unsafe situation.”

Nine roadside workers were killed and 239 injured seriously enough to be off work in B.C. from 2013 through 2022, according to WorkSafeBC statistics.

Injured workers were off the job for an average of 131 days each. Sampson herself barely avoided being struck in a work zone when a driver chose to go around the vehicles she had stopped.

“An incident like this will make your heart race,” Sampson said.

READ MORE: Distracted driving month shows gaps between law and police messaging, B.C. lawyer says

Trace Acres is the program director for Road Safety at Work and a spokesperson for Cone Zone, which aims to reduce risks for roadside workers and for people who drive through work zones.

“Working in and around traffic is dangerous,” said Acres in a statement. “How we drive in work zones affects the lives of other people. We need to slow down, leave our phones alone and pay attention, and move over to put more room between vehicles and workers if it’s safe to do so.”

B.C.’s Slow Down Move Over law requires drivers to slow down below the posted speed limit and move over on a multi-lane road if it’s safe to do so.

Slow Down Move Over applies in work zones where vehicles are displaying flashing red, blue, or amber lights, but its rules are best followed in all work zones.

Failure to follow the Slow Down Move Over Law starts at a $173 fine and three points, and using a phone while driving leads to a fine of $368.

Sampson said that these fines, and the work being done by the province, is helping make her workplace safer.

“I think the work being done by the Cone Zone awareness campaign, by WorkSafeBC, by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and by the BC Construction Safety Alliance is making a difference and improving safety for roadside workers.”