Begin Main Content Area

Work Zone Close Calls

True stories from PennDOT staff about some of their harrowing experiences while they're out in the field.

Our folks work day in and day out to keep our roads and bridges safe for Pennsylvania residents and those who travel Pennsylvania roadways every day. Whether it's tackling winter weather, repairing bridges, replacing important infrastructure or performing routine maintenance, our team is working for you. It's very important for you to pay attention in a work zone, because a moment of distraction can lead to very serious consequences and even to the loss of someone’s life.

Here are some of the very scary close calls our staff has been through, in their own words or through secondhand accounts.


Expand AllClick here for a more accessible version

Valerie Notarione, Equipment Operator

District 1, Erie County

Valerie kneeling with her young daughter who is in a construction helmet, vest and goggles

"Two years ago we were working and a flagger stopped traffic. A gentleman looked at the flagger and started yelling at him and ran the work zone. She was able to radio to me and we stopped traffic from coming in the other direction just in time. A couple more seconds and he would have driven into oncoming traffic. He could well have hit another vehicle or hit one of us trying to avoid hitting another car. He was cited by the police for that.

Mindy McFetridge, Equipment Operator

District 1, Venango County

Mindy McFetridge sitting with her bright yellow construction helmet in front of her

"Last year, I was flagging for a crack-sealing crew in Venango County when I had to jump over the guiderail. A car was coming and it sure looked like he didn't see me and wasn't going to stop. He did stop eventually, but it didn't look like he was going to.

Bob Nicklas, Transportation Construction Inspector

District 2, Clearfield County

Bob Nicklas kneeling holding his white dog, next to his young son and daughter

The unthinkable happened on Dec. 6, 2013, when Bob Nicklas was inspecting a section of posted highway. While in the vehicle identifying damage to the roadway, a vehicle struck him from behind, pushing his vehicle off the road and over an embankment. He was very shaken and received minor injuries. Although Bob's work zone was properly posted — LED hazard lights were activated and he had a ½ mile of sight distance behind his vehicle — he couldn't prevent the crash.

Dan Frits, Highway Foreman

District 3, Northumberland County

Dan Fritz in camoflouge jacket with PennDOT construction hat

"One time when I was working we were doing some guide rail work. Not only did we have our signs out with our flags, but we also had flares at the beginning of the work zone, three flares as a matter of fact before our flagger. I was up the road working, all of a sudden I heard brakes and a bang and looked back to where the sound came from. Our flagger was leaving the edge of the roadway. The first car had stopped inches from him, but a second vehicle had hit the back of the car that was stopped at the flagger. Our flagger really had nowhere to go, I mean he had an escape route, but it happened so fast. The flagger said 'I really didn't know what was going on at first.'

Scott Gillette, Highway Foreman

District 4, Pike County

Scott Gillette leaning on a work zone vehicle

"[Last year] my crew and I had a lane closed on Interstate 84 in Pike County for a mill and fill operation. At the end of the day, we were moving [equipment] to the starting point. Traffic was moving slowly up the hill when a tractor-trailer hit the back of one car and pushed the car and the truck into the work zone, coming within 100 feet of [our equipment].

Francis Baines, Equipment Operator

District 4, Luzerne County

"I was flagging one day when a SUV was approaching. The vehicle did not appear to be slowing down and began 'crowding' the white line. As the vehicle approached past the line of stopping, I took a step back, just seconds before impact with my paddle.

Bruce Moyer, Equipment Operator

District 5, Berks County

Bruce Moyer in baseball uniform holding a bright yellow construction helmet

Luckily, Bruce Moyer has never experienced a work zone near miss in his more than 20 years at PennDOT; though he did experience a situation where his truck was rear-ended during a winter event in Berks County. Even though he was not hurt, the other driver suffered injuries and his or her vehicle was totaled.

John Conrad, Bridge Foreman

District 5, Berks County

John Conrad, Berks County bridge foreman, has been with the department for more than 34 years. He is responsible for bridge maintenance work as well as traffic control during bridge inspections. Over the last few years, John and his crew have had several close calls in their work zones.

Tim Schultz, Highway Foreman

District 6, Bucks County

Tim Schultz work zone infographic

"[Last year, my crew was performing base repair.] Despite a very visible flagger utilizing her stop paddle, a motorist decided that he no longer wanted to wait for her instructions to proceed. In a very irate manner, the motorist sped around two cars in front of him and the flagger, and entered the active work zone. In his frustration, the motorist drove very abruptly and quickly past some of the crew members.

Lou Carotenuto, Highway Maintenance Foreman

District 8, Lancaster County

Lou Carotenuto in motorcycle gear

Lou Carotenuto is the foreman for a paving crew in Lancaster County. Last year, he and his crew were finishing a patching operation. He was just about 5 minutes away from finishing the day's work and heading home for the weekend, and was standing on the closed lane of the road where the patching had been done.

​Mike Peterman, High Maintenance Foreman

District 8, Adams County

Mike Peterman's maintenance crew averted a potential tragedy last spring while replacing a drainage pipe in Adams County. During a flagging operation. the crew directed traffic. Most motorists slowed down and stopped in line, but one motorist didn't stop. The driver of a sedan swung his vehicle around a slowing fuel tanker truck.

Beth Jamison, Highway Foreman

District 9, Huntington County

beth jamison infographic

Beth Jamison, highway foreman, experienced an intrusion by a cyclist in Huntingdon County. The cyclist did not pay attention to the Work Zone Ahead signs, and ignored directions given by a flagger. He crashed his bike and was injured. The crew called an ambulance and stayed with the cyclist until help arrived.

David Bocz, Maintenance Foreman

District 10, Indiana County

david bocz on black and orange background saying #slow4zone

Maintenance crews often perform their work surrounded by moving vehicles on bustling roadways.

"As a Foreman at PennDOT, my job is to maintain the safety of myself and my crew while performing work on the roadway," David Bocz, maintenance foreman in Indiana County, explains. "We all want to be able to go home every night to the people who are important to us.

Sheldon Phillips, Highway Foreman

District 11, Lawrence County

Sheldon Phillips, a foreman in Lawrence County, has been a PennDOT employee for nearly three years. In that short amount of time, Phillips has experienced nearly a half-dozen near misses.

Greg Hillsman, Acting Foreman

District 12, Greene County

Several years ago, acting foreman Greg Hillsman was a member of a bridge-flushing crew performing work on bridges in Greene County. He was one of six workers cleaning dirt and gravel left over from winter off the bridge deck. The flagger observed a tractor-trailer approaching the bridge. With no traffic coming from the opposite direction, the flagger gave the trucker the SLOW side of the paddle and indicated to the driver to slow down.