PORTLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A road construction worker remained in critical condition Wednesday after a late-night crash on eastbound I-96 sent him to the hospital.
The crash happened just before 11 p.m. Tuesday and shut down the eastbound lanes of the highway just east of the Kent Street exit until around 3 a.m. Wednesday.
Portland Police Chief Star Thomas said the construction worker was appropriately attired in a marked one-line construction zone sitting on a cement-cutting device rather than sitting in it.
“They were carving a cement line at the time, so that construction worker was actually sitting on a vehicle used just for that purpose,” she said.
Thomas believed it was a car that hit the worker.
“I believe it impacted the vehicle first, but I don’t know what speed it was going or if it had a chance to brake yet, that will come out during the investigation,” the police chief said.
Police are withholding the names of the driver and road worker who was flown to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing with life-threatening injuries.
While it will take time to determine what happened and if charges are merited, police already determined alcohol was not a factor in the crash.
The worker was involved in a monthslong bridge and road rebuilding project that will last several more weeks. Work will continue at night to avoid rush-hour congestion.
Michigan ranks seventh in the nation for highway work zone fatalities, according to state statistics.
The Michigan Department of Transportation reports that in 2018, Michigan had 4,926 work zone crashes, 15 of which were deadly. Work zone crashes also caused an estimated 1,972 injuries.
“My best advice would be to treat that worker as you’re accustomed to treating law enforcement with flashing lights,” said Thomas. “Flashing lights or construction workers are entitled for people to slow down and to move over.”
While it’s still unclear what led to Tuesday night’s crash, MDOT reports that most work zone crashes are caused by distracted and speeding drivers.
“So it’s important for drivers to remain alert, to keep their eyes off of their phones, on the road and to just be aware of potential dangers that they could be approaching,” Thomas said.
“Both hands on the wheel, eyes straight ahead, reduce your distractions in regards to children in the car, your cellphone on the dash, your GPS, just keep your eyes on the road,” she added.
Statistics also show more crashes happen during the day than during night road work.