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​​Ryan Watts
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Speakers honor fallen workers, urge motorists to examine driving behaviors

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 16, 2017) – Amidst the backdrop of a seven-foot wall displaying 1,400 names from across the country, transportation leaders, surviving family members and law enforcement officials gathered to pay tribute to fallen road crew workers at today’s Vested in Work Zone Safety event at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC).

Hosted by the KYTC, in collaboration with the Kentucky Association of Highway Contractors (KAHC), the event featured the traveling National Work Zone Memorial Wall and communicated a unified message: travel through work zones as though lives – perhaps even your own – depend on it.

“This year we have already had one fatality in an active work zone, and that is one too many,” said Dr. Noelle Hunter, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety. “We all speak with one voice in expressing our concern for the need to focus more attention on what we can do to reduce the number of preventable highway tragedies in work zones. Every driver can take simple steps to reverse this trend.”

Last year in Kentucky alone, 675 work zone crashes were responsible for 10 fatalities and 143 injured victims. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in work zones across the nation, one person dies every 13 hours and one person is injured every 13 minutes.

Emphasizing the widespread personal effects of work zone fatalities, Hunter noted that she is “one degree removed” from the loss suffered by Tonya Ashby, a friend and former colleague who lost her brother Kendale T. Ashby when he was struck and killed while at work on U.S. 421.

“On January 14, 2014, our family changed forever,” said Tonya Ashby, accompanied by nine of her family members. “It is my driven passion to make others aware of work zone safety. The Ashby family and I have the utmost respect for those working in all work zone areas and pray that you never have to experience the loss that we have experienced. Work zone safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

First-hand work zone testimonials were also shared by State Highway Engineer Patty Dunaway, who spoke of her own brother’s near-miss with a semi tractor-trailer and Kentucky State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officer Joseph Overton, who relived his collision with a semi while assisting an evening work zone crew replacing roadway reflectors.

“Had the driver been an inch to the right, I may not be here with you today,” said Overton. “The Kentucky State Police will strictly enforce laws in work zones to ensure safety of other motorists so that you do not become another of these members on the wall.”

Transportation leaders highlighted the industry’s commitment to making work zones safer with one goal in mind.

“We need to go beyond today in honoring the lives of those on the memorial here. I can think of no better way than to continue with a relentless focus on improving work zone safety. I want you to know it’s a personal commitment of mine and a commitment of this Cabinet,” said KYTC Sec. Greg Thomas.

“We want to ensure that our highway crews work in a safe environment while providing safe and reliable roads for the people of Kentucky,” said Chad LaRue, KAHC executive director. “It is the hope of all of us to eventually have a year where zero names are added to the wall.”

Sponsored by the George B. Stone Company, of Sharpsburg, the National Work Zone Memorial Wall will be available for viewing at the KYTC central office in Frankfort through Thursday and will be moved to the Sharpsburg Community Center for display on Friday and Saturday. The memorial travels to communities cross-country, year-round to raise public awareness of the need to respect and stay safe in America’s roadway work zones.

Currently, the wall contains approximately 1,400 names of people, including 14 Kentuckians, who have lost their lives in highway work zones. The wall includes the names of workers, motorists, law enforcement officers, public safety officials, children and pedestrians. The names do not represent all work zone fatalities in Kentucky or across the nation. Names for inclusion on the wall can be submitted by individuals and state agencies through a form accessible at www.atssa.com.

Event photographs can be viewed on KYTC’s Vested in Work Zone Safety Day Facebook album at http://bit.ly/2qoRz5V.
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