Three years ago Sunday, Lyndon Ebker, a 33-year veteran of the Missouri Department of Transportation was hit and killed by a driver while serving as flagman at a work zone on a bridge on Missouri 100 in Franklin County.
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As the construction season starts to ramp up across the state, Edker's daughter, Nicole Ebker-Herbel, asked the public to look out for MoDOT and other construction workers as they drive the state's roads.
She made her remarks at a ceremony Monday at MoDOT's Fallen Worker Memorial in Jefferson City to mark National Work Zone Awareness Week.
"My father was performing a job he had done his entire life," Edker-Herbel said. "He came home every day after working for over 30 years at MoDOT. I kept thinking somebody has him mixed up with someone else. There's no way it could be my dad. I kept calling him, but he never picked up."
Since construction workers are looking out for the public by working to improve roads, Edker-Herbel said, "it is only right to look out for them when coming upon a work zone."
"My dad lost his life because someone didn't take warning when they saw the flags," Edker-Herbel said. "They didn't slow down and they didn't pay attention, so they never saw my dad, holding the stop sign."
Part of Edker-Herbel's healing process has been working to get a bill passed in the Legislature that would give the Missouri Department of Revenue the ability to revoke someone's license quickly after striking a worker in a work zone. That person would then have the option either to retake the driver's test or to petition a court to get his or license reinstated. The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Aaron Griesheimer, R-Washington, and is awaiting a hearing in the Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee.
Senior Maintenance Worker Willie Jones, of Haiti, said he has counted his blessings every day since he was struck by a vehicle in a work zone. He was driving a truck-mounted attenuator for a moving work zone when a distracted driver crashed into his TMA.
"For some reason, I felt in my spirit I was going to get hit," Jones said. "Everyone that came up on me waited until the last minute to get back over in the lane they should have been in. The person that hit me didn't make it back over. You can't see it; that's how fast it happened."
Since 2000, 19 MoDOT employees have been killed while working on a project, and 13 of those incidents happened in a work zone, according to statistics provided by MoDOT.
Last year, 13 people were killed in work zone crashes — and distracted driving, either due to texting or talking on a cellphone, was the leading contributor.
Between 2014-18, 54 people were killed and 3,248 people were injured in work zone crashes.
In an effort to enhance work zone safety, MoDOT Central District Engineer David Silvester shared information about automated flagger assistance devices, a new safety tool developed by MoDOT workers in western Missouri that the department is using this construction season.
"This keeps the flagger off the road and in their truck," Silvester said. "They have the ability, with a joystick, to change stop and slow signs. If an approaching vehicle does not heed to those signs, there's a very loud horn that will sound.
"When there is something that needs to be changed to improve safety, the men and women of MoDOT put their heads together and come up with innovations to do that."