Seattle- Last year, at least 33 Washington State Patrol (WSP) vehicles were hit by distracted drivers while troopers were either at construction zones, or conducting traffic stops, or clearing a collision. Already by June 6 of 2016, 11 WSP vehicles were struck while troopers were stopped on the side of the road, with emergency lights activated. The numbers are on the rise. In 2014, 25 drivers ran into patrol vehicles.
It happened to King County District 2 Trooper Mallory Reynolds. Last December, Trooper Reynolds had her emergency lights activated while stopped on the right shoulder of I-5 south near the West Seattle Bridge. She was completing the impound of an abandoned car when a distracted driver rammed into her patrol vehicle with her still inside. “It caused a big jolt. The sudden impact caught me by surprise,” said Trooper Reynolds. “It is not worth it to drive distracted when the risks jeopardize everyone’s safety,” says Trooper Reynolds.
The for-hire car driver was also traveling south I-5 in the right lane when he entered the shoulder and collided with the Trooper’s patrol vehicle.
The distracted driver was traveling at least 30 mph on impact and if he was going any faster Trooper Reynolds says, “He most likely would have struck the tow truck driver who was hooking up the impounded car.”
The force of the impact injured Trooper Reynold’s back and caused the patrol vehicle to be in the shop and off the road for two full months.
Patrolling the roadways of King County, Trooper Reynolds has seen plenty of distracted drivers,” Talking on their phones, texting, taking pictures or entering coordinates into their GPS units, all of these activities take driver’s attention away from the roadways.” Studies show that driving is a complicated task that requires the driver’s full attention.
Drivers need to pay particular attention to the road while in work zone. Since the summer construction season is in full swing, many drivers across Washington State are traveling through WSDOT work zones on a daily basis.
We have an average of 916 work zone injuries on state roads each year. Many times, it’s not the workers that are most at risk. Drivers, passenger or passing pedestrians make up 96 percent of people hurt in work zone crashes in Washington.
There are devices that help to keep the traveling public and workers safe in work zones. Truck-mounted attenuators, or accordion-like devices on the back of trucks, are designed to crumple together and absorb energy from a crash. They act like a shield between traffic and workers. One is hit every six to eight weeks.
“Drivers can do their part too by slowing down and staying focused on the road at all times for the safety of our workers and for themselves and their fellow travelers,” said Justin Fujioka of WSDOT.
This month one of the largest construction projects, known as the #SouthKingSlowdown, will reduce southbound Interstate 5 to just two lanes between SeaTac and the Duwamish River Bridge for the next four weekends while contractor crews complete critical road repair work.
Many work zones, including the #SouthKingSlowdown, change the way a highway looks, feels and drives. Following posted speed limits and paying attention to the changes ahead will help keep both drivers and the work crews safe.
Washington State Patrol Troopers will be out patrolling to ensure drivers are following the traffic laws.