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Dead Zones

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November 4, 2002

Tift County-- Construction zones on Georgia highways are so common, you may not take the dangers of driving through them seriously.

Crashes, even deaths, in those work areas happen far too often. And the truth is, with a little extra caution, you can easily prevent those construction zones from becoming dead zones.

In July, a truck driver veered into an I-75 work area. He crashed into nine workers, killing one and himself. Charles Spencer, an asphalt foreman for Reeves Construction, says "Anything can happen out here."

On this day, a couple of dozen men are working at another I-75 paving project in Tift County. There are plenty of warning signs. And lots of barrels. "Our first priority is safety," Spencer said. 

But not every driver slows down. "They don't pay any attention to the speed limit signs, and they'll just drive whatever they want."

The workers are literally in the middle of the Interstate, with nothing but a row of barrels separating them from cars and trucks that may be driving as fast as 70-miles per hour.

Robert Metts knows what it's like to work in the middle of traffic. "I even consider myself lucky to be alive." And he knows what the consequences of a distracted driver can be. That was the day Metts' life changed forever on August 15, 1986. "Came over and struck me in the back, almost centered me up with her hood."

16-years later, he still walks with a limp and lives with constant pain. "I've got good days, and then I've got real bad days. I was within an inch of dying."

Now, Metts conducts DOT safety seminars. "All it takes is a split second, and you could take somebody's life." But it's really simple to keep that from happening.

Spencer said- "When you come through, if you don't mind just slow it down a little bit, and we'll appreciate it." There's not much room for error in construction zones, so even if no one's working there, you need to pay close attention when you're driving through.

"Cut off your radio. Put down the telephone. Keep your mind on going through the work zone," Metts says. That message has become Robert Metts mission.

"If I don't do anything else but save somebody from getting hurt or hurting somebody else, then I say I've done a good day's work." A good day's work making work zones safer for us all. In the last 30-years, 53 Georgia DOT workers have been killed in work zone crashes. That doesn't include deaths of people working for contractors.

Just on I-75 in South Georgia this year, five fatal accidents in work zones that killed seven people.

posted at 4:40PM by dave.miller@walb.com