From a shirtless man steering with his knees and playing a ukulele to a woman shaving her legs behind the wheel, Karesse Desmond has seen it all during her 13 years as a flagger.
Some of the more common distractions she’s witnessed in construction zones, though, are electronics and makeup.
“And what we’re trying to emphasize today is these are the behaviours that we don’t want to see in a cone zone,” she told the NOW at a construction site in Burnaby Monday.
Desmond was on Gilmore Avenue near Douglas Road with representatives from WorkSafe and the police to kick off the ninth annual Cone Zone Campaign, designed to raise awareness about the risks workers face working on or beside the road.
“Distracted driving has really risen,” Desmond said. “If you’re looking down in your lap at your phone or you’re drinking your coffee and dialling the radio or you’re just not paying attention, that makes my job very difficult.”
Thirteen roadside workers were killed and 213 injured in B.C. between 2009 and 2018.
In 2018 alone, two workers were killed and 29 injured after being hit by motor vehicles, according to WorkSafe.
Sgt. Patrick Davies is still haunted by one fatality he attended in Langley some years ago, when a flagger was hit and killed by an inattentive driver.
“What we’re trying to say is that these people deserve to get home safely to their families,” Davies said. “They’re doing the jobs that they’re paid to do.”
Flaggers’ and roadside workers’ biggest enemies are inattention and impatience, according to Davies, and he is urging drivers to be patient, keep their eyes up and pay attention to what flaggers are trying to tell them.
“The impatience that the motorist feels, the inattention, we don’t want it to have tragic results,” he said.
And, for drivers who want to avoid a hit to the pocketbook, Monday’s enforcement blitz was a reminder of the financial cost of not obeying the rules: from a $196 fine for not obeying a flagger to a $368 ticket for using an electronic device.
The Cone Zone Campaign, which runs from May to August, coincides with an increase in roadside work through the spring and summer. It aims to reduce the number of deaths and injuries to roadside workers by increasing awareness of the vulnerability of these worker and encouraging drivers to practise safe driving behaviour in cone zones.