New DOT barriers can help save workers' lives

A metal mobile barrier is being tested by Washington’s Department of Transportation.

There were more than 1,600 work-zone collisions in Washington last year.

It's an extremely dangerous work environment, with cars whizzing by at 70 mph.

Reporter Jeff Dubois went back into KIRO 7’s video archives and found several crashes where drivers slammed into highway work zones.

>> Related: WSDOT vehicle in work zone struck by car on I-5

In one crash in Bellevue on Interstate 405, a bus driver suffered a diabetic reaction and hit a WSDOT vehicle.

In another crash, a woman was thrown from a motorcycle and killed when she was speeding through a work zone.

In 2008, a car racing in Renton smashed into the back of a WSDOT truck on State Route 167.

In 2006, a WSDOT worker was cleaning up after a crash in Fife. A car slammed into the back of his Incident Response truck, which lurched forward and hit the worker.  The worker then got up, stumbled over to the guardrail and collapsed.  He survived.

>> Related: Driver of SUV dies in crash into WSDOT truck

There is an average of four such crashes a day in Washington State.

But in a work zone crash on Interstate 5 near Vancouver this summer, workers were protected by a steel mobile barrier. It's essentially a steel wall that's towed on a trailer and set up to deflect cars driving at freeway speeds.

The driver who crashed his pickup was OK, but was cited for 32 counts of reckless endangerment and DUI -- one count for every person in the work zone.

But it's not just about safety.

WSDOT says the barrier reduces the time for construction closures.

“You're not having to do an entire mobile operation with multiple vehicles to set out cones or barrels and then come back through and get started on the work.  You come in, set up and get to work,” said Tamara Greenwell with WSDOT.

WSDOT is renting the safety barrier and testing it out to see if the state is interested in buying a few of them.

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