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PennDOT memorializes fallen workers

| Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 11:12 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Linda Porter and her son, Derrick, were among those to attend a Work Zone Safety Awareness Event on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, in Butler. The event recognized PennDOT employees killed in the line of duty since 1970. Porter’s husband, Ronald, was among those recognized.

Derrick Porter has missed growing up without the strong influence of his father, Ronald Porter, who was killed in a PennDOT work zone accident in September 2003.

“It's definitely impacted my life,” said the 17-year-old West Sunbury boy. “I've missed out on things.”

On Tuesday, Porter's son, widow Linda and other family gathered around a cross bearing a fluorescent orange helmet, orange-and-yellow safety vest, and Porter's name. It's among 84 crosses outside PennDOT's maintenance office in Butler Township honoring workers killed on the job.

The crosses are a reminder for motorists to slow down as the road construction season gets into full swing.

“This is for everyone who works in a traffic zone,” said Bob Skrak, PennDOT's maintenance manager in Butler County.

Porter died when his PennDOT vehicle went off Route 58 in Parker and hit a tree. But many of those killed in work-zone accidents were struck by motorists.

Work-zone crashes across the state have been dropping, said state police Lt. Jeffrey Hopkins. In 2010, there were 1,886 crashes, and 1,812 in 2011, Hopkins said. In 2012, the last year for which numbers are available, there were 1,661 crashes.

In Butler County, though, there were 10 crashes in 2009, and 37 in 2013 — none fatal.

The number of citations written in work zones has dropped, Hopkins said, because troopers typically are stationed at work zones during peak traffic hours. Federal mandates in federally funded work zones have made the zones safer, he said.

In 2010, troopers issued 13,177 citations. By 2013, that number had fallen by nearly two-thirds, to 4,407.

Skrak said officials are working to remind motorists that they need to be careful.

Fines and punishments for work-zone infractions are doubled in active work zones.

Those found driving 11 miles an hour or more above the posted speed limit in a work zone, or involved in a work-zone crash and convicted of failing to drive at a safe speed, lose their license for 15 days.

“It's very difficult to get people to pay attention,” PennDOT spokeswoman Deborah Casadei said.

Bill Vidonic is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5621 or

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