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Michigan's Roadside Workers Urge Drivers To "Slow Down and Go Around" In Construction Zones


LANSING, MI--May 22, 2014: As Michigan motorists prepare to hit the road this Memorial Day weekend with the unofficial start to summer, the state's top utilities and others who work alongside those roads are reminding drivers to slow down in utility work zones.

A coalition of more than a dozen Michigan utilities, telecommunications providers, waste haulers and the unions that support them, along with Gov. Rick Snyder, the Michigan Legislature, Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan Public Service Commission joined to promote Michigan Roadside Safety Awareness and the need to Slow Down and Go Around at an event held near the Capitol steps in downtown Lansing today.

Demonstrating her continuing support for roadside worker safety efforts was Robin Creel, widow of Consumers Energy journeyman line worker Jeff Creel, who was struck and killed by a vehicle while responding to a report of a downed power line near Jonesville in 2012.

As Creel and others looked on, Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle, acting on behalf of Gov. Rick Snyder, presented a proclamation declaring May 22, 2014 as Michigan Roadside Safety Awareness Day.

Among the state lawmakers present in support of resolutions endorsing the safety effort were Senators Bruce Caswell (R-16) and Mike Nofs (R-19), and Representatives Rick Outman (R-70), Ken Kurtz (R-58) and Aric Nesbitt (R-66).

"Working in and around roadways is often required by employees who provide electric, gas and telecommunications services, waste hauling, as well as those in the construction trade, and there's no doubt this work presents a daily danger," Dan Malone, Consumers Energy's senior vice president of distribution, operations, engineering and transmission, told the assembled group.

"Safety is a core principle at DTE Energy," said Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy vice president distribution operations. "Our number one priority is to make sure our colleagues get home safely to their families, every time they come in to work. We are committed to operating our businesses in a manner that keeps communities and our employees safe."

A large contingent of vehicles, ranging from electric bucket trucks, a gas "sniffer" truck and other vehicles that often are parked in and around roadways were on display at the event, with safety equipment such as flashing lights activated.

In 2013 there were 4,080 construction zone and utility related crashes in Michigan, 10 of which were fatalities and another 107 serious injuries. Public Acts 103, 315 and 464 are all related to driving safely in roadway work zones, and provide for penalties for those who don't respect the zones, with severe penalties for those who injure or kill workers in these designated areas.

State laws changed in 2006 to double fees and criminal penalties for injuring or killing a worker in a work zone apply to all workers, not just law enforcement and road construction crews.

"We want every one of our members to return safely home to their families at the end of the day, but we need the public's help when it comes to work zone safety," said Ron Byrnes, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 352 representing the Lansing Board of Water and Light. "Drivers need to focus, obey the work zone signs and warning lights, and slow down as they go around people working in and along roadways. This is a work area much like that of someone who sits at a desk or runs a cash register, and it needs to be kept safe."