Caltrans Honors 183 Fallen Highway Workers

Caltrans logoWe, people, as we fly along on local freeways don’t give much thought to the people who are out there, maintaining the freeway system throughout California. We will occasionally see a bright orange Caltrans truck or we might occasionally see a Caltrans worker but we quickly pass by as we get to our destination.

However, what we fail to acknowledge is the often dangerous job some of the Caltrans employees deal with each and every day and sometimes those jobs result in death to the employeee.

At its 24th Annual Workers Memorial at the State Capital on May 1, Caltrans honored 183 employees who lost their lives while on the job. The solemn event comes about one year after two Caltrans employees were killed by a rock slide while working to protect the traveling public, said Caltrans spokesperson  Tamie McGowen.

Shawn Baker,  50, from Weed and Joseph “Robert” Jones, 40, of Montague, died in April 2013 while working on a rock scaling operation to stabilize a hillside on State Route 96, west of Yreka. Their deaths ended a two-year stretch without a highway maintenance worker fatality. Another Caltrans highway maintenance worker, Dean Patton, 51, of Grass Valley, will also be honored. He was riding a motorcycle on his way to attend the 2013 Workers Memorial when he was hit and killed by a motorist.

“The Highway Workers Memorial is a somber reminder that highway workers put their lives in danger everyday just by going to work,” said Caltrans District Director Malcom Dougherty. “We are constantly working to protect highway workers and contractors in work zones, but one thing we cannot directly control is driver behavior. Drivers need to slow down, watch out for highway workers and safely move over a lane when passing work crews.

Did you know that highway construction is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United states? More than 1,000 Caltrans vehicles are hit on the highways each year Motorists are at high risk too, with drivers and passengers accounting for 80 to 90 percent of the people who are killed in highway work zones. Most of those fatal crashes are rear-end collisions, with speeding and aggressive and distracted driving being the most common factors.

Drivers can dramatically improve safety in work zones by slowing down and reducing distractions like texting and talking on the phone in highway work zones.  Complying with the “Move Over Law,” which requires motorists to move over if it is safe to do so, or slow down, when approaching vehicles displaying flashing amber warning lights.

Caltrans has partnered with the California Transportation Foundation to develop two funds to benefit the families of Caltrans workers killed on the job. The Workers Assistance and Memorial Fund helps with the initial needs a surviving family faces, and the children of fallen workers may now apply for a Caltrans Fallen Workers Memorial Scholarship. Donations may be made to the California Transportation Foundation, 581 La Sierra Drive, Sacramento, Ca. 95864. Please designate which fund should receive the donation.




Driving and Texting or Talking on Your Cell? Not at Good Idea!

California_Highway_Patrol_patchIf you’re thinking of picking up your cell phone and answering (or making a call) while you’re driving you might want to reconsider that decision. How about texting…..nah, don’t do it!

In an effort to improve highway safety (and who sees more horrible auto accidents than the CHP?) the California Highway Patrol will conduct a “zero tolerance enforcement” effort during April. The focus of this enforcement effort will be distracted driving including holding hand-held cell phones, texting and other distractions.

Distracted drivers are responsible for many deaths and hundreds of injuries every year. “Every single time a driver diverts attention from the road, even for one or two seconds, they put their lives, and the lives of others around them, at risk,” said Inland Division Chief Michael Champion. “If you are using a cell phone without a hands-free device, texting or being distracted in some other way, our officers are going to take the appropriate enforcement action,” Champion added.

While the primary focus will be distracted drivers, officers will also take enforcement action on any other observed violations such as DUI, speeding and seatbelt violations.

It is the mission of the California Highway Patrol to provide the highest level of safety, service and security to the people of California, said Arrowhead Area Sergeant Levi Miller of the Arrowhead Area CHP station.

Driving in the Snow? Caltrans Offers Tips for Safe Driving!

Winter is definitely here.Caltrans logoand for all the fun it can provide it also means slippery, sometimes foggy roads and a lot more accidents. Caltrans is happy to offer several tips to help winter drivers cope better with often changing road conditions. While some of them may be really obvious it doesn’t hurt to repeat them. Remember, it is Caltrans that sets the chain requirements, not the California Highway Patrol. The CHP is in charge of enforcing Caltrans’ chain enforcement regulations so being angry at CHP officers is (a) useless, (b) stupid and (c) makes them mad. Not a good idea at anytime!

As a reminder there are three levels of chain control requirements that Caltrans sets and the CHP enforces:

1. R-1-Chains or snow tread tires required. Snow tires must have a tread depth of 6/32″ with a M&S imprint on the tire’s sidewall. Most tires sold today meet this qualification.

2. R-2-Chains required on all vehicles except four-wheel or all-wheel drives with snow tread tires on all four wheels. Four wheel drives must carry chains. If you have four-wheel drive, engage it. Use the “4-high” range only. Use “4-low” only if your vehicle becomes stuck.


For the most recent information use the Caltrans “Quick Map” for road conditions, road work, chain control, cameras and CHP information at: If you’re traveling in the Inland Empire you can also log onto: call “511”  from the Inland Empire before you leave.


* Drive slower, brake slower and accelerate slower;

* Leave more room between your vehicle and the one in front of you.

* If your visibility disappears due to fog do not stop in a traffic lane; look for the closest turnout.

* If chains are required you may install your own or pay one of the Caltrans permitted chain installers.

* Do not put chains on in the roadway (you’d be surprised how many people do this) and stay well off the road in a turnout or other chain control area. Do not put chains on next to the road or on the shoulder of the road, you’re too close to traffic and if they slide you may be in real danger.

* If you decide to pay to have a chain installer put the chains on your car be sure to use someone who has a Caltrans permit. They will have on a yellow bib with the official Caltrans Encroachment Permit.

* Never, ever get out to play in the snow next to traffic lanes. Because drivers can hit icy patches and slide if you are too close to the highway drivers out of control may not be able to stop in time to keep from hitting you or your passengers.

* Do not snow play in the turnouts.

* If you’re going to the snowy mountains here are some suggestions of what to bring… these, they could save your life.  Take water, food, warm clothing, sturdy shoes or boots and necessary medications. While this may seem like a lot of “baloney” if you’re just going on a “quick trip” to the mountains this is one of those “better safe than sorry” things. People who get stuck sometimes, or even go over the side of the road, never think that’s going to happen but it does, especially on black ice or “plain old white ice.” Keep blankets in your car and have a flashlight in the glove compartment with working batteries. You might even keep an extra set of batteries in the glove compartment.  If you have a cell phone make sure it’s charged before setting off for the snow and if you have a car charger make sure you have that in your vehicle.

*If your tires are bald or almost bald, stay home! Unsafe tires are an accident waiting to happen. Wait until you’ve got good tires before hitting the ski slopes or it is entirely possible that you could slip on the ice and hit another vehicle or worse yet, people.

* Black ice is particularly hard to see, especially at night, so slow down if it has just snowed because that is when black ice is most likely to form. Driving on any kind of ice is difficult and dangerous so the slower you want to go, the better.

* In the mountains snow is a challenge in and of itself but when its combined with fog it presents more issues. If you encounter fog reduce your speed, drive with your low beams only and never drive with just your fog or parking lights.

* Lower your window to listen for traffic you can’t see. You might get cold but it’s better than having a potential accident.

* Use extreme caution when crossing traffic and/or a busy intersection.

* Use your windshield wipers and defroster to help improve your visibility.

* One of the most important things is to be patient. Trying to pass other vehicles is an “accident waiting to happen.” It’s not worth the risk that another car is coming from the opposite direction that you can’t see until the accident occurs.

* If  your visibility decreases to the point you can’t see, don’t stop in a traffic lane. Drive slowly until can find a turnout if you need to calm down.

* If you’re going slow but you’re holding up other traffic turn out in a turnout and wait until the vehicles have passed.