Six construction workers were killed March 22 when a car crashed into their work zone along the left side of the northbound inner loop of I-695 in Woodlawn, Maryland.
According to Maryland State Police, a driver of an Acura TX tried to change lanes at about 12:30 p.m. when her car struck the front quarter panel of a 2017 Volkswagen in the adjacent lane. The Acura then spun out of control and went crashing into the work zone in an opening in the concrete barriers. Six contract highway workers were killed.
The victims, which included a father and son, are identified as:
- Mahlon Simmons III, 31, of Union Bridge
- Mahlon Simmons II, 52, of Union Bridge
- Rolando Ruiz, 46, of Laurel
- Carlos Orlando Villatoro Escobar, 43, of Frederick
- Jose Armando Escobar, 52, of Frederick
- Sybil Lee Dimaggio, 46, of Glen Burnie
The driver of the Acura, Lisa Adrienna Lea, 54, of Randallstown, was transported to the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center where she is being treated for her injuries, according to police. She was the only occupant in the vehicle.
The driver of the Volkswagen stopped north of the scene on I-695 where his car became disabled. The driver did not report any injuries.
Investigators from the Maryland Department of Transportation Occupational Safety Office, Maryland Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are working in coordination with the Maryland State Police Crash Team, police say.
After the investigation is completed, the Crash Team will submit its findings to the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office for review to determine whether charges will be filed.
The NTSB says its investigation will focus on issues relating to speeding, work zone protection for construction workers and collision-avoidance technology. The agency says the majority of its fatal accident investigations are completed in 12 to 24 months, and a preliminary report is expected in about three weeks.
National Work Zone Awareness Week
The fatal crash comes a month ahead of the annual National Work Zone Awareness Week, which is April 17-21.
The event has been held each spring since 1999 by the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) to spread awareness about work zone safety.
According to the National Work Zone Safety website, fatal work zone crashes have risen 46% between 2010 and 2020. There were 774 fatal work zone crashes in 2020, killing 857 people. Of those, 117 were workers, and 51 of them were pedestrians at work, such as those killed in the March 22 I-695 crash. The website reports that more than 44,000 people were injured in work zone crashes in 2020.
The safety week highlights the dangers of inattention in highway work areas. The 2023 weeklong commemoration includes:
- Work Zone Safety Training Day – April 17
- National kickoff event – April 18
- Go Orange Day – April 19
- Social media storm – April 20
- Moment of Silence – April 21
Tips on work zone safety
These tips on work zone driving safety are from the FHWA:
- Plan Ahead. Before traveling, look up the latest traffic conditions on the route you plan to take. Information on active work zones is available from many agency and private-sector websites, apps and on social media to help you plan your trip, and possibly avoid work zones altogether.
- Minimize Distractions. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid changing radio stations and put your phone away when driving through a work zone. Work zones can change daily, so anticipate new traffic patterns and look out for other drivers and road users.
- Look Out for Workers. In 2020, 117 workers died in highway work zones.
- Check Your Speed. Obey posted work zone speed limits, look out for stopped or slow traffic and maintain a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you to reduce the risk of crashes with other vehicles and with highway workers.
- Be Careful Around Large Vehicles. Large vehicles can be harder to maneuver and slower to respond, so avoid making sudden lane changes in front of trucks or buses and look out for construction vehicles.
- Be Prepared for Sudden Stops. Work zones sometime cause congestion, delays and traffic jams. Be alert and watch for sudden stops. In 2020, 20 percent of all fatal work zone crashes involved rear-end collisions.
- Read the Signs. Signs provide guidance to road users of traffic laws or regulations within the work zones. Remember that signs, cones, barrels and flaggers are there to help maneuver you safely through the work zone.
- Do Your Part. Everyone is responsible for doing all we can to work together and ensure we all stay safe.