News Release

CONTACT: Carl Defebo
Phone: 717.831.7176
April 30, 2015

         Work Zone Injury Prompts PA Turnpike to Remind Motorists to Slow Down

           PA State Police intensify focus on PA Turnpike work zones in wake of tragedy.

MIDDLETOWN, PA. (April 30, 2015) — After a construction worker on the Turnpike sustained serious injuries earlier this week, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) is reminding motorists to slow down and pay attention in work zones. PTC Chairman Sean Logan has requested extra Operation Orange Squeeze details — where troopers conduct speed enforcement inside work zones — across the PA Turnpike system; Pennsylvania State Police will be cracking down.

Operation Orange Squeeze is when Turnpike Troopers run radar inside construction vehicles — including the Turnpike’s orange dump trucks — while another trooper waits outside to pull over and cite offenders.

“After yet another needless tragedy, we are sending an urgent message to motorists that speeding in PA Turnpike work zones will not be tolerated,” Chairman Logan said. “Luckily, this man was not killed. He does, however, face a long road to recovery. His life and his family have been impacted forever because an irresponsible driver made a poor decision.”

The crash occurred April 27 near milepost 154 in West Providence Township, Bedford County. The driver was speeding in a work zone. When a trooper who was conducting enforcement in the work area initiated a traffic stop, the driver swerved into the closed lane to evade arrest, striking a construction worker.

That worker, Jeremiah Witherspoon of Altoona, remains hospitalized with serious injuries. He is employed by a construction contractor that is completing a Turnpike repaving job in the area.

“In this case, the perpetrator is facing felony charges because of the circumstances. But any driver cited in a work zone travelling 11 mph or more over the speed limit could face around $200 in fines plus a 15-day suspension of their license,” said Lt. Edward Murphy of Pennsylvania State Police Troop T, the unit in charge of Turnpike patrols. “Unfortunately, the consequence for the victim is often much worse. Mr. Witherspoon might never return to work, and he’ll probably have to deal with his injuries the rest of his life. That is the true tragedy.”

The danger that workers face every day on the road is significant. Last year alone, there were 150 crashes in Turnpike work zones. In 2014, Troop T issued close to 9,000 citations in work zones. Of these, more than 500 were during Orange Squeeze details.

“Over the years, more than 30 Pennsylvania Turnpike employees have lost their lives while performing their duties; many of these tragedies happened in work zones where speed and distraction were factors,” Chairman Logan said. “Our highway workers and their families are counting on us to help protect them, and their safety is our main concern.”

Logan reminded travelers to visit to learn more about the importance of safe driving in work areas and to join other motorists in a safe driving pledge. By encouraging motorists to sign the safe driving pledge and to express why they are doing so, the commission is hoping drivers will stop and think more personally about what impact their driving choices can have on themselves, their own families and others on the roadway.