More safety measures could be coming to protect highway construction workers in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Following the latest fatality in a construction work zone, leaders in the industry hope more can be done to help keep crews safe.

On Wednesday, Justin Nance, 32, was killed while working on a project in northern Hamilton County, near the intersection of U.S. 31 and 286th Street.

"We are devastated for Justin Nance and his family,” said Andria Hine, the manger of communications and technology for Indiana Constructors, Inc. She added they were also devastated for Nance's employer, E&B Paving and its parent company, IMI.

Hine said it made it worst knowing that workers were on the last day of the job.

Indiana Constructors, Inc. has close to 200 members in the state, all of which are construction companies that employ thousands of workers.

Too often, workers along the highway are in dangerous situations.

"In 2016, we had 5,500 collisions that occurred in work zones," said Indiana Constructors, Inc.'s manager of transportation and safety issues Ashley Aiken. "That resulted in 15 fatalities. That could be passengers, drivers and workers."

Those numbers came from the Indiana Crash Facts report for 2016, an Indiana University Public Policy Institute publication.

There could be hope the issue might improve.

This summer, two interstate projects kept drivers away. Sections of work to I-65 and I-465 left the interstate completely shut down and gave workers a safer environment to get work done. Hine said the decision can have several benefits.

"By shutting down the work zones, not only do we complete the projects faster, at a higher quality for the tax payer and taxpayer dollars, we’re also ensuring our workers are safe by not having traffic six-inches from your work zone," she said.

Hine said companies on those projects loved having the road closed off and will be getting more feedback from INDOT on its thoughts about doing more projects the same way before the end of the year.

New legislation could also be introduced to get drivers to slow down in work zones.

State Rep. Jim Pressel (R-District 20) said he plans to introduce legislation that would make it for drivers to use a cellphone, unless using a hands-free device. It would also call for automated enforcement, such as cameras, to work zones and school buses or stops.

"If people know these exist and they could be cited for speeding in those zones, they’ll slow and pay attention," Pressel said.

The state lawmaker from northern Indiana added he hasn't finalized the legislation, and wasn't completely committed to cameras being used to catch drivers going too fast.

Hine said Illinois has put cameras in place to help protect workers in construction areas and it has improved safety, so far.

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