Southland Caltrans workers paused Tuesday for an annual memorial event paying tribute to their colleagues who have been killed on the job.
"The men and women who build, repair and maintain the state's 50,000 lane miles of state highway know that they have one of the most dangerous jobs in America,'' said Carrie Bowen, director of Caltrans District 7, which covers Los Angeles and Ventura counties. "The only line of defense are the closures we install to warn motorists of a work zone. However, these are not foolproof in protecting workers from an errant or distracted driver."
According to Caltrans, 187 employees have been killed since 1921 -- 37 of them in District 7. In 2014, there were 4,783 work zone collisions on California state highways, causing 2,391 injuries and 43 deaths.
Officials noted that about 85 percent of people killed in highway work zones are drivers or passengers, with most of the fatalities caused by rear-end collisions largely attributable to speeding and distracted or aggressive driving. More than 1,000 Caltrans vehicles are struck on highways annually, according to the agency.
At a memorial Tuesday, the names of workers killed on the job were read and a bell was sounded in their honor. Family members, current employees and members of the California Highway Patrol were at the event, which featured rows of the agency's orange uniforms, representing workers killed while doing their jobs.