Road workers rally for stricter safety standards

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Dozens of road workers and representatives from at least seven traffic control companies rallied for work zone safety at the Vermont statehouse Saturday.

Advocates for work zone safety say they have been asking for change for years, but it was the recent death of a local flagger that inspired the rally.

"She is three. All she knows is daddy hasn't come home yet. How do you explain it to a three-year-old?" said Krystle Bergeron.

Bergeron's fiancée, James Alger, died last month after getting hit by a car while he was flagging in a construction zone.

"He's missed by a lot of people," said Bergeron's sister, Cynthia Mead.

"That guy loved his job. He'd have weekends that they don't work and he would put himself out there to work on the weekends," said Cassandra Bergeron.

Construction workers rallying say they love their jobs, too. But they say losing their lives at the hands of a distracted driver, is senseless.

"We both decided that enough was enough, and we were sick of the public treating us like bumps in the road," said Mike Messier, ADA Traffic Control crew leader.

Rally organizers are demanding respect for their duties. Representatives from Green Mountain Flagging, LPD Traffic Control, Northern Vermont Traffic Control, Nicom Coatings Corp., Pike Industries, Inc., and L&D Safety Marking Corporation participated.

"We are people. We're not just obstructions. We're not telling you to slow down or stop because we want to hold you up from your next appointment or keep you from going where you want to be. We're ensuring your safety," said Jillian King, ADA Traffic Control field supervisor.

"Everyone complains that the roads are terrible in Vermont, but as soon as we put any equipment out in the road, we become the enemy," said Messier.

State representatives are standing behind the cause with a bill proposing triple penalties for moving violations in a construction zone. Right now, fines are doubled.

"Not so much to fine Vermonters for doing things, but just to make it a little bit more aware that's a serious offense, and they shouldn't be doing it," said Rep. Brian Smith, R-Orleans County.

"When the word gets out that you get a ticket for it, people stop doing it, and that's what we want," said Rep. Kurt McCormack, D-Chittenden County.

Organizers list five things you can do on the roads to keep workers safe. Increase your following distance, don't assume workers aren't present, follow instructions from flaggers, minimize your distractions, and merge promptly at lane closures.

"Just pay attention to your road signs and slow down," said Rebecca Ann Alger, James Alger's mother.

In January, a panel of work zone safety advocates will be back at the statehouse to present that bill to the Vermont House of Representatives.