Facts pour in about road reflectors, highway safety

Dear Editor: My name is Wilton Watson and for the last 13 years I have worked for D.I.J. Construction, Inc. in Bertram. D.I.J. is a general contractor that stripes highways and installs reflective pavement markers on Texas highways for the Texas Department of Transportation. After reading your article in the July 4th edition of The Brady Standard Herald pertaining to the governmental waste of money on reflectors, I would like to explain why the company you mentioned had the trucks and other equipment you described to install reflectors in Brady. The company in question is one of our competitors and I know them well. While nine men and five trucks might seem excessive, if you had talked to some of the men you would have found out that they were training new employees and were taking advantage of the roads with light traffic for that training. The reason for so many trucks is to keep the crew members as well as the traveling public safe. The arrow boards on the trucks are to let the public know how to safely go around the work convoy. The ‘scorpion contraptions’ that absorb the impact in a collision are called attenuators. They are required for the protection of crewmembers as well as the safety of the public. Our company alone has been hit by ‘wayward, out-of-control vehicles’ at least eight times since 1989, when we started using attenuators. These requirements are not the result of ‘frivolous lawsuits by cheap lawyers’; they are the result of a small percentage of the traveling public that is uninformed, inconsiderate, and downright rude. If you want to do a real service to your community, print an article educating the public about work zone safety. The people working on our highways are people. They are all fathers, sons and brothers who deserve to be protected. I was upset and angry when I read that someone like yourself does not know why the state requires so much protection for this kind of operation. The reason I take issue with your article is that on Nov. 13, 2002, even with all of the aforementioned safety equipment, a truck hit the reflector crew that I supervised. The driver of the truck was on drugs. All three trucks in our work convoy were hit. When I consider the loss of the life of one of my co-workers and the months of therapy for another crewmember and myself, I wish the state required more protection. I realize that most road work hinders people, like you, from getting where they need to be in the time allotted, but road work is a necessity and the law states that you must abide by the laws in the construction zones or face the punishment. You have, no doubt, benefited from the reflective pavement markers as you have traveled at night and have taken for granted how they got there. You probably have not thought about the fact that someone put their life in the hands of the traveling public to make the roads safer for you. I wish people having their driver’s license renewed had to take a test on the meaning of arrow boards and the warning signs on trucks and in construction zones. Finally, we will be coming through Brady in the near future; I would like to invite you to be part of our crew as we put reflectors down on a roadway. We will furnish you with a reflective vest so all of the drivers can zero in on you, as they seem to do us. You will get a pair of gloves so as not to burn yourself with the ‘globs of gooey stuff’, which is called bituminous, that hold the reflectors in place. You will need to furnish your own long sleeved shirt so as not to get burned by the glue and sun. I will be very surprised if you do not feel just a bit uneasy with the traffic traveling in both directions at what seems to be ‘Nascar’ speeds with some people trying to see just how close they can get to you before your hat blows off. I believe you will realize that more resources and avenues of protective equipment are needed to protect the lives and property of individuals merely doing a major service for the Texas public. I hope that in the future, Mr. Stewart, you will be more responsible in your reporting before you write and publish something about which you know nothing. The derogatory comments you made about our industry show absolutely no class on your part. If you have a better method by which to place these markers on the highway, please share them with the TxDOT office in your area. I am sure they would be glad to hear from you. Respectfully, Wilton Watson, Bertram, Tex.

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