Proposed bill would fine drivers who injure, kill road workers

Lawton_An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to fine drivers thousands of dollars if they injure or kill construction zone workers.  Michael Poahway, father of MedWatch Reporter Terri Poahway, was killed in 2006 while he was working road construction in St. Louis, Missouri.

Authorities say the drunk driver was speeding through the construction zone when he struck Poahway.  Now, Michael's wife and Terri's mother, Lucinda, is speaking out about that horrible day in hopes of saving the lives of more road workers.

A construction zone may not seem very dangerous from you car, but for construction workers, it's hazardous.  Of the 117 state employees killed in the line of duty since Oklahoma's statehood, 53 were transportation workers.

Lucinda says she, and even her husband, were naïve about the dangers of the job.  "I never imagined that would happen to my husband - never.  I was never prepared for it," she says.  She says safety always came first with Michael.  But, no matter how cautious he was, a lot of drivers flying by him were not.  "A drunk driver veered into the barricade, and killed him," she says.  "He was pinned against his equipment and killed instantly."

State Representative Purcy Walker of Elk City knows the dangers of construction zones, too.  A friend of his - who did road work - was hit by a vehicle.  He recovered, but not before spending five months in the hospital.  "You see it everyday, especially when you merge left, or merge right," says Walker.  "It seems like everybody's racing to get up to the front of the line.  People will go around you going 90 miles per hour because they don't want to slow down.""

Lucinda hopes drivers will soon have a costly reason to slow down - a big fine if they hit someone.  "It could range up to $5,000 dollars for that injury," says Walker.  "Then, if there's a death that occurs from the negligence of a driver, it could range up to $10,000."  Lucinda adds that these are preventable deaths.  "There's no reason aside from just being negligent in driving that these deaths should even occur."

In addition to the fine, the measure would rename any section of road where a construction worker is killed.  Poahway says Missouri lawmakers passed a similar measure after her husband's death.  The man who hit Michael Poahway has been charged with Involuntary Manslaughter.  His trial is set for March 31, in Missouri.