Minivan crash highlights need for summer driving safety

1 week 3 days 7 hours ago Wednesday, June 13 2018 Jun 13, 2018 Wednesday, June 13, 2018 1:49:00 PM CDT June 13, 2018 in Continuous News
By: Johannah Grenaway, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA - A minivan traveling southbound on U.S. 63 Wednesday morning struck an unoccupied excavator on the roadside near Bonne Femme Creek.

A Missouri State Highway Patrol report said the accident occurred as the vehicle was traveling through a construction zone and entered a sectioned-off portion of the roadway, striking the excavator.

The crash happened at 5:08 a.m., so there were no workers present at the scene. The MSHP reported the driver was 66-year-old Maureen Kremer. The Highway Patrol said she sustained minor injuries and was transported by ambulance to Boone Hospital. The is no report on the cause of the crash.

The accident highlights the need for extra precautions in work areas along Missouri roadways. Barry Parsons, part-time manager for Keith Contracting, has been working on roadways for the past 25 years. He said his company's focus is traffic control signs at construction projects.

Parsons said he thinks placing law enforcement at the work sites would help the most because drivers slow down when they see the red and blue lights, whereas they don't pay enough attention to the orange signs or orange flashing lights. 

Parsons said work site accidents happen "way too often." He said major accidents are pretty rare, but fender benders happen constantly due to distracted driving.

"We'll be working on a roadside ditch along a busy highway and you'll hear tires squealing or you'll hear a car weaving back and forth and virtually every time, when they go by, it's somebody on their cell phone. We've seen some people run up in the ditch next to us, reaching in the back seat for something. We put the signs up for a reason. We put a lot of signs out, put rails and flags out to draw attention and people just don't seem to notice them or pay attention."

Due to his experience, Parsons said he can tell when drivers are going faster than the speed limit. "Ninety percent of drivers go through it at least ten miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Right now, this is posted to sixty. None of the cars going by here right now are going sixty miles an hour. Very few of them," Parsons said. 

MoDOT engineer Ashley Buechter agreed that, in general, cell phone use is a large cause of the distracted driving crashes. 

She said the top five reasons for work site accidents are: distracted and inattentive driving, following too closely, driving too fast for conditions, substance use and improper lane usage.

Buechter said MoDOT's "Buckle Up Phone Down" campaign is something that drivers should observe, but she added that this time of year is the middle of MoDOT's "work zone season," so drivers should "always be prepared for the unexpected event."

According to MoDOT, law enforcement is not always present at work zones, but it does have agreements with agencies to have law enforcement present for some. It is also allowed, by law, that some work zones can have contractors with red or blue lights on their vehicle depending on certain limitations.

MoDOT said it educates drivers with signage and it has statewide initiatives to reduce the number of work zone accidents every year.

MoDOT suggests work zone driving tips using the three S's: Managing your speed, your space and your stress.

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