Calumet Co. widow shares message on Highway Work Zone Awareness Week

Derick Burkhalter's memorial Monday, April 9, 2018. (WLUK/Pafoua Yang)

HARRISON (WLUK) -- As orange barrels re-appear along area roadways, it's "Highway Work Zone Awareness" week.

It's a reminder for drivers to pay attention.

A memorial sits on Highway 114 in Harrison. It serves as a stark reminder for the lost life of Calumet County Highway worker, Derick Burkhalter.

"My husband wasn't just a statistic," said Karen Burkhalter. "He was an important member of our family and our community and of his work."

Burkhalter told FOX 11, her husband died nearly 3 years ago on the job. Since then, her pain has turned into a purpose.

"One of the things I'm doing this week is I'm going to Washington D.C.," explained Burkhalter.

Burkhalter and others will be sharing their stories for lawmakers Wednesday.

"So when a hearing comes up and a bill comes up, they'll have a face because we've been forever affected," said Burkhalter.

Sgt. Tim McGrath with the State Patrol said sheriff deputies, police officers and state troopers teamed up Monday to enforce speed limits and other traffic laws.

"Our goal is not to issue citations; we really want our motoring public traveling construction zones to be safe, and also we want the construction zone workers out there making the roads better for all of us to be safe," Sgt. McGrath told FOX 11.

The DOT reported 76 work zone crashes in 2014. Last year, crashes spiked to 234.

McGrath said distracted drivers and aggressive drivers are key causes of crashes in work zones.

"By aggressive driving, I'm talking about speeding, excessive lane changing, cutting off other motorists. I'm talking about following too closely, tailgating, a lot of those things are aggressive driving," MGrath explained.

McGrath said drivers need to relax, slow down and be attentive.

It's reminders Burkhalter hopes everyone takes seriously.

"Our loved one deserves to come home at the end of the day," said Burkhalter.

Statewide, there have been more than 2,000 work zone crashes, each of the past 3 years.

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