COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Summer is on its way, which also means a busy construction season in Central Ohio.
On Friday, Ohio Department of Transportation workers personally asked drivers to promise to slow down or move over when they see highway crews.
It was all in honor of one of their fallen co-workers, Lee Rizor, who died while on the job in 2013.
“The vehicles passing us at 70+ mph just inches away from us is a very eerie, scary feeling for our guys, but we’re still out there trying to make it safe for the motoring public,” said Lauren Fitzpatrick, who was working with Rizor the day he died.
Drivers who came to the north or southbound rest stop on I-71 north in Delaware County signed their names right next to a photo of Rizor.
“That’s a feeling that I’ll never forget. I’ll remember every detail that day for probably the rest of my life,” said Fitzpatrick. “It was a feeling of helplessness, obviously instant heartbreak. My first worry was the kids and Mary, so that was my first thought was his wife and his kids.”
Rizor was 28-years-old when he died, just two miles south of the northbound rest stop. He was known as a devoted husband and father of two young children.
“It was a small crew on that day. Lee was cleaning debris from behind the guardrail with his backhoe,” said Fitzpatrick. “A semi driver fell asleep and struck the backhoe and killed Lee instantly.”
ODOT deputy director of district 6 Jack Marchbanks said he wants motorists to realize they’re driving past precious, human lives.
“We want people to enjoy mobility, enjoy our great highway system, but respect the people who maintain it,” he said. “If you see a road crew or construction crew out there working, move over, slow down, respect your fellow human being.”
Marchbanks said it’s important to emphasize safety for highways workers. In 2016, there were 6,041 work zone crashes in Ohio and 28 deaths. The last highway worker who died on the job was Rizor.
“This event was put together by our highway technicians and our construction workers who wanted to honor the memory of Lee Rizor not by mourning, but by doing something constructive to make sure other people are not tragically taken from us like Lee was,” he said.
The original law that requires motorists to move over or slow down was put into effect in 2004, but was expanded to include all vehicles with flashing lights in 2013, the year Rizor was killed.
Marchbanks said highway workers also have to worry about drugged driving, as well as people texting and driving at excessive speeds
To report drugged or impaired driving, you can call #677.