‘I’m angry.’ Officials, traffic safety advocates call on drivers to slow down, move over for roadside workers

The news conference was initially scheduled to urge caution ahead of Fourth of July holiday travel, especially in light of two roadside deaths in the past month—a state police trooper and a construction worker.

Marissa Alter

Jun 28, 2024, 11:29 PM

Updated 22 days ago


Connecticut’s top safety official didn’t hold back his anger at a news conference about roadside safety Friday.
“We stand here just miles away from yet another accident, another active accident, vehicle versus pedestrian on our Connecticut highways,” stated Ronnell Higgins, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. “If it feels like I'm bringing a sense of moral outrage this morning, I am.”
The news conference was initially scheduled to urge caution ahead of Fourth of July holiday travel, especially in light of two roadside deaths in the past month—a state police trooper and a construction worker. Then Friday morning, just two hours before the group addressed the media, a DOT worker was killed on the job on I-91 south in Wallingford. Andrew DiDomenico, 26, was on the shoulder of exit 13 on-ramp when a car drove into him.
It was yet another reason for state police, politicians and traffic safety advocates to plead with drivers to slow down and if possible, move over, when they see flashing lights or people working on the side of the road.
“I am angry that anybody who works or tries to help others on the road takes their life in their hands,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “This kind of tragedy is preventable. It is fully and completely preventable if people will follow the law but also just obey common sense.”
Blumenthal and the others spoke at the Connecticut Law Enforcement Memorial in Meriden, a tribute to those officers who died on the job. Soon CSP Trooper Aaron Pelletier will be added to the list of names there. Pelletier, 34, was hit and killed during a traffic stop on I-84 in Southington on May 30. “A trooper’s cruiser is their desk, and the highways are their office,” CSP Major Chad Gomez told the media. “Whatever workspace you have in your professions, try to envision vehicles traveling within mere feet of you while performing your day-to-day tasks.”
The nonprofit Flagman was also part of the news conference. The organization is on a mission to educate the public on slow down move over laws and the dangers emergency responders and workers face along the roads. It was formed in memory of Corey Iodice, a Fairfield tow truck driver killed on the Merritt Parkway in 2020. His sister Cindy Iodice turned her grief into action.
“Her plan is to educate the public starting with kindergarten kids. Last year we did a pilot program in the Fairfield Public Schools system,” Flagman Media Relations Manager Fran Mayko told News 12. “Her plan is to hit every state in the union with this program.”
The call to action also came one day after a tractor-trailer crashed into a Greenwich fire engine on the scene of an earlier accident on I-95 south. Three firefighters went to the hospital and are now recovering at home.
On June 12, Jose Diaz Nieves, 54, was hit and killed by a driver while working on a construction site in Hartford.
“Where we are right now, we have never seen before,” Higgins stressed. “We're outraged with the speeding. We are outraged with people being digitally distracted, so digitally distracted that they can't determine what's going on and react. It’s unacceptable.”
Higgins said it’s going to take everyone coming together to fix this.
“The Connecticut state police has been and continues to be committed to enforcing the laws on our highways, but folks, I'm here today to say that we need your help.” he stated. “We have to think differently. I am for increasing penalties. I am for whatever it takes to make our highways safe.”
A violation of the law is currently just an infraction, which Blumenthal said shouldn’t be the case.
“I strongly believe that heightened penalties and stronger punishment play a part in education. Deterrence works,” Blumenthal said, adding that he plans to push Congress for a resolution that urges and incentivizes states to have stronger penalties for violations of slow down, move over laws.

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