VDOT urges caution after safety patrol worker seriously hurt

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — A safety patrol worker was hit and seriously injured by a vehicle over the weekend, and VDOT is spreading the word that drivers need to pay better attention to roadside workers along our interstates.

William Nichols, 50, of Virginia Beach, was upgraded Monday morning from critical to serious condition, following surgery. State police say he stopped to assist the rider of a disabled motorcycle just after midnight Saturday morning. That’s when he was hit along southbound Interstate 664 at the Portsmouth Boulevard interchange.

So far this year, VDOT has logged 40 accidents in work zones across Hampton Roads.

“A lot of it is people not paying attention, using their phones,” VDOT spokeswoman Laurie Simmons said. “I think Hampton Roads drivers really aren’t paying attention to the cones.”

Police charged Yancy McIntyre, of Virginia Beach, with reckless driving in Saturday morning’s incident. Alcohol was not a factor.

Since that incident, VDOT said two other incidents put roadside workers in danger. A crash Sunday night along I-264 involved five vehicles near Military Highway. Another work zone crash happened late Monday afternoon on I-264 at First Colonial. Fortunately, neither incident involved any serious injuries.

VDOT has begun a safety campaign to emphasize the need for drivers to pay attention. The campaign will be spread throughout local media and email, and include universities, hospitals, the Port of Virginia and trucking associations.

“Whenever [drivers] see those cones, they need to slow down, they need to put their phones down, they need to stay in their lane,” Simmons said. “And then they need to pay attention to their surroundings.”

VDOT said the campaign is aimed at keeping not only the roadside workers safe, but drivers safe, as well. The agency said 15 people were killed last year statewide in work zones. All of them were drivers.

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