British Columbia

Safer driving calls renewed after Langford flagger struck

B.C. motorists are being urged to slow down after a flagger on Thursday was struck by a car in Langford and sent flying into a ditch.

'Staggering' total of 244 B.C. roadside workers hit by vehicles over 10 years

Roadside workers in B.C. are trained to watch for unsafe driving behaviours. (David Horemans/CBC)

B.C. motorists are being urged to slow down after a traffic flagger was struck Thursday by a car in Langford and sent flying into a ditch.

The West Shore RCMP said the flagger was trying to stop a car travelling in the eastbound lane on Sooke Road and Luxton Avenue when she was hit by a small hatchback.

The flagger and car both landed in the ditch. The flagger was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

In the last 10 years, 244 roadside workers — including flaggers — have been struck by a car while at work, said Al Johnson, vice-president of prevention services at WorkSafeBC.

"That is a statistic that's staggering," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, flaggers are being hit far too often and it can happen literally in the blink of an eye."

"They're working right next to the vehicles and the vehicle's always going to win if something goes wrong," he added.

'Near misses'

Motorists often show little respect for roadside workers, said Diane Herback with the B.C. Flagging Association.

She's encountered a number of "near misses" in her 30 years on the job. In one incident, Herback was forced to dive into a prickly bush after a motorist nearly ran her over.

"It's extremely stressful. Your head is swiveling continuously. You're shaking a little bit," she said.

"I've been doing this a long time and I still get unnerved by what some vehicles do and how they drive. I can't imagine mentally what [the flagger] is going through."

There's often no recourse for dangerous drivers. Flaggers can write down licence plate numbers and send them to the police, but that doesn't amount to much, Herback said.

Herback wants to see more police monitoring roadside construction sites. She's also asking motorists to slow down.

"If you're going slow enough and a chain breaks on the excavator or a piece of cement falls under the backhoe bucket ...  we can stop you and save your life."

Listen to Diane Herback on CBC's On the Island:

Spotting the hazards

Flaggers are occasionally at fault for collisions. But B.C. flaggers benefit from some of the most comprehensive training in North America, said Sarina Hanschke.

Hanschke oversees traffic control program quality assurance for the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance.

Workers get two days of training, including practice controlling traffic before receiving a certificate.

"A big part of training is being aware of the situation you're in and noticing hazards from the onset," she said.  

That includes understanding driver behaviour and minimizing the triggers — such as poor signage — that can cause unsafe driving.

Flaggers are taught to spot warning signs such as tailgating, honking horns and revving engines, Hanschke said.

They're also trained to find the most visible spot on the road and to map an escape route should a car approach.

With files from On the Island