‘Clearing the roads and helping drivers:’ DOT trains with law enforcement to keep roads safe
They have one of the most dangerous jobs in America and chances are you see them every day. The Department of Transportation trains with law enforcement to help them get to accidents faster and safer.
“The biggest thing with us is we’re not understood a lot around the state about what we actually do,” said Mike Evans with the Department of Transportation.
Their motto is “clearing roads and helping drivers.”
“Unlike a lot of states, we perform a dual function in that we are an emergency response agency as well as what we would call a service patrol where we help people out,” Evans said.
And a large part of helping is providing backup to law enforcement when emergencies happen on the road. They are trained at the Washington State Driving Academy so using maneuvers to help clear long backups come in handy.
“We’re actually dispatched by the state patrol. We get the exact same information as the troopers do at the same time which is one of the major reasons we’re as good at what we do as we are,” Evans said.
But perhaps the most surprising aspect of the road crew many of us see every day is the extreme danger of the job.
“Current statistics are we lose eight to ten firefighters every year due to being killed out of the roadways. Ten to fourteen state patrol and police officers. We’re losing three tow truck operators every two weeks in this country right now, and D.O.T. nationwide we have 20,000 workers killed a year and 100,000 injured out on the roadways,” he said.
That makes this job one of the most dangerous in the United States. So why risk so much for a job?
“For those of us who have been in public service for years, it just goes with what we were meant to do,” Evans said.
It turns out that he was hit by a car in 2010 and left in the middle of the road, but survived when a trooper saved his life. He’s back at work Monday through Friday to help the general public in need during a busy summer season and beyond.