BATON ROUGE, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Today, Louisiana First Lady Donna Edwards joined the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development in honoring the life of a DOTD employee who was tragically killed this summer while performing his job.
Edwards along with DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. attended a special ceremony held at DOTD Headquarters to mark the addition of Johnny Cole’s name to the memorial wall of fallen employees.
Cole’s wife and children were also presented with a commemorative plaque to honor his 11 years of service to the state of Louisiana as a District Sign Specialist in the West Monroe area.
Edwards spoke today on behalf of Gov. Edwards, who was unable to attend.
Edwards said, “The regular offices of many of our DOTD workers are busy roadways in dangerous conditions, and we take the risks of their jobs seriously. My husband and I are heartbroken that this family is now without a husband and father, so we are proud to support Dr. Wilson and his team at DOTD in their implementation of additional safety enhancements.”
DOTD is in the process of implementing a variety of new measures, including the requirement of a spotter on any two-man operation. Along with this procedure, a cone will be placed further back from the work zone and equipped with an alarm that will sound if it is hit. This will give advanced warning that a vehicle has entered the work zone.
Dr. Wilson said, “On the day we laid to rest another employee killed in service to the state, I am reminded that the absolute most difficult aspect of my job as DOTD Secretary is to have to make that phone call to relay the worst news imaginable to a family member. The accident that ended the life of Johnny Cole was most tragic because it could have been prevented. So after extensive research, we are pushing to help ensure our employees in the field are as safe as possible with enhancements to their uniforms and equipment.”
DOTD is also in the process of purchasing 70 additional trailer mounted attenuators that are designed to absorb the impact of a crash. These will be placed on the last vehicle in the work zone as a buffer.
Another enhancement in development is a color change for the safety vests and uniforms – from the orange blaze to the bright yellow/green. Policy updates are in the works to require field crews to wear full uniforms.
Additionally, the emergency lights on DOTD vehicles will be transitioned from amber and red to green and amber, a much more highly visible combination. Along with the color changes, the flashing patterns will be updated and old lights will be replaced with all LEDs.
All of these measures will be rolled out across the District crews over time, with emphasis on magnifying the visibility of employees working in the field.
DOTD will also continue its efforts to educate and remind motorists about the importance of driving responsibly and the dangers of driving while distracted.