"One of the best decisions I had ever made"
- Joseph Lugo
An MTA Bridges and Tunnels officer died of injuries suffered when he was hit by a car on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Oct. 20, 2013. Thomas Choi, 62, became the first officer to die in the line of duty in the 81-year history of MTA Bridges and Tunnels division.
According to CBS News (12.29.14), the car hit Officer Choi while he was helping to reopen the Brooklyn-bound lower level of the bridge in Staten Island following its normal overnight closure. A New Jersey driver stuck him while he was removing barriers. The accident left him critically injured and in a coma he never woke from.
More than 900 workers are killed and more than 40,000 are injured on worksites each year as a result of crashes in work zones, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Nearly half of the worksite deaths are the result of traffic-related injuries, with the other half caused by being hit by construction vehicles and equipment inside the roadway worksite.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 101 worker fatalities at road construction sites in 2008, 116 in 2009, 106 in 2010, 122 in 2011, and 133 in 2012, and 105 in 2013,according to the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC). In the time period between 2003 and 2007, 639 workers were killed while working at a road construction site. Workers on foot accounted for hundreds of these worksite deaths.
Now is the time to learn from Officer Choi’s death and try to improve the system to prevent similar deaths.
What Officer Choi was wearing at the time of his death was unreported. The use of high visibility clothing is one strategy that can be used to reduce the number of deaths caused by workers being struck on road construction sites. Fluorescent and retroreflective materials can make a person highly visible in both day and night light conditions.
What protection Officer Choi had while he was preforming his work was also unreported. To protect workers in roadway work zones, the speed of vehicular traffic should be reduced, and strategies such as funneling, lane reduction, or the use of uniformed law enforcement officers, or flaggers, should be considered and employed, as necessary.
The Perecman Firm extends its sincerest thoughts and prayers to the Choi family in this time of sadness.