Widow Of ODOT Worker Reminds Oklahoma Drivers To Slow Down
TULSA, Oklahoma - The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is encouraging drivers to pay attention while moving through construction zones, where their workers face daily close calls. One plea for construction-zone safety came from the widow of an ODOT worker.
Last year an ODOT worker, Ira Henderson, was killed when he was hit by a driver in a Washington County work zone on U.S. Highway 75.
Henderson's widow Lisa urged drivers to be careful and slow down. Her husband died November 30, 2011, when he was hit by a driver who police said was under the influence.
Construction zones are dangerous places, not just for drivers, but also for ODOT workers. But law enforcement says it doesn't have to be that way - if drivers will just slow down.
ODOT workers know their office is a dangerous place. There's not much they can do about that - except encourage people to slow down.
Supervisor Brian Sutton says ODOT workers learn to listen for trouble.
"Squalling tires, is like bullets to a police officer," Sutton said. "You start looking for a way out, and what's coming and what you need to do."
Five months ago, Sutton was the supervisor of a crew on Highway 75. That's when Ira Henderson was hit, and killed, by a driver who police say was driving under the influence.
Lisa Henderson says her husband didn't talk much about the danger - as much as the anger he saw in the work zone.
"He would tell me that people would get mad, the drivers on the road give him the finger and cuss them out because they were holding them up," Lisa Henderson said.
ODOT workers rarely have the chance to have a work zone closed off like this so they're absolutely protected. More often than not - they're right by traffic when it's zipping by at 70 miles an hour.
With so many workers in so many active construction zones right now - ODOT hopes to make the point that drivers need to slow down.
"We'll do whatever we can to try to slow people down," Tulsa Officer Craig Murray. "We've got to protect these workers better so they can get their job done and the roads open faster."
For Lisa Henderson, it's personal - every time she goes past someone working alongside the road.
"I stop, because I worry about them, especially after what happened to my husband," Henderson said.
ODOT often has highway patrol troopers in their work zones, and depending on the ticket, the fine can be as much as double the regular cost.