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Caltrans pulls workers off the road after third death in two months

On Monday, the California Department of Transportation pulled all of its maintenance employees off California roads after a Caltrans employee was hit by a car and killed on a San Diego freeway earlier that day. The fatality marks the third death of a Caltrans employee in the last 48 days, which spurred the one-day shutdown as state transportation employees reexamined safety procedures and attempted to figure out how to prevent similar deaths in the future.

The fatal accident took place when a car struck and killed a 52-year-old Caltrans employee as he cleared debris from a freeway in the San Diego area. Earlier, two other Caltrans workers were fatally hit as they performed job-related duties. On June 7, a 53-year-old employee was working on Interstate 8 in Imperial County when he was struck by a car and killed, and a 64-year-old employee died after being hit by a trolley in National City near San Diego on May 4.

After the three fatalities, Caltrans officials pulled workers from the roads for the remainder of the day Monday. Most employees were expected to return to work on Tuesday, but a Caltrans spokesman said that workers in Caltrans District 11, which covers San Diego and Imperial counties, may not go back to work right away.

In an effort to reduce employee highway deaths, Caltrans will be posting notices on its statewide network of electronic highway message signs, reminding drivers to slow down when they encounter highway workers. According to Caltrans spokesman Matt Rocco, there is only so much the agency can do to prevent these tragic deaths. "This is only one half of safety on the state's highways," he said. "State laws require drivers watch for our employees, move over and slow down."

Source: The Bellingham Herald, "California takes maintenance workers off highways after third fatal accident," Jon Ortiz, 20 June 2011

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