Donna Edwards on DOTD event 121619

First Lady Donna Edwards makes comments Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, during a ceremony to honor Johnny Cole, a sign specialist with the state Department of Transportation and Development who was killed on the job on June 18 near Ruston. At right is DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson.

On Monday, Feb. 3, Dwayne Pitre, a DOTD employee performing his duties by picking up litter, was struck by a vehicle in a work zone near Carencro. He was seriously injured when a distracted driver swerved to avoid slowing traffic on Interstate 49, hitting Pitre instead. This public servant now faces an extensive recovery process that is sure to place an undue financial and physical burden on him and his family — a burden he certainly didn’t expect when he left for work on Monday morning.

Adhering to protocol, Pitre was equipped with his safety vest, the emergency lights on his vehicle were activated and he and his co-worker were a safe distance away from traffic. Thankfully, Pitre is still with us, but not everyone is that lucky.

Since my appointment as secretary in 2016, I have had the responsibility to call and console the families of Mr. Johnny Cole and Paul Featherston after both were killed in the line of duty. Both were along our highways installing signs and repairing pot holes, respectively, when they were killed by distracted drivers.

In an effort to increase worker safety, DOTD recently introduced several safety enhancements that include additional personnel on work crews to monitor traffic, the extension of work zones and the addition of impact-absorbing trailers that provides warning lights and flashing arrows. Additionally, we are changing our safety color patterns to include a vivid green. This green will be displayed with yellow on our uniforms and will be added to our emergency light regime.

At DOTD, safety is our top priority. Each year, we participate in national and local safety initiatives working closely with our partners such as Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission to remind motorists to avoid driving distracted or impaired. While we have improved our safety measures in work zones, we are appealing to citizens to do their part and pay attention to the roadways.

SHAWN WILSON

secretary, Department of Transportation and Development

Baton Rouge

Our Views: In 2020, Louisiana drivers should resolve to buckle up