Jason Duran knew there were risks to the job of highway construction flagging when he started two years ago.
Cars whizzing by inches away could hit him, he knew, but Duran never thought he would be struck by a driver rather than a car.Duran, 24, who works for Skill Staff, a division of SOS Temporary Services, became another victim of road rage that is increasingly directed at flaggers. They report being pushed off the road by irate drivers and having their feet run over.
Duran was helping to control traffic in West Bountiful on Saturday while a crew laid underground phone lines. Traffic was reduced to one lane in both directions when a motorist drove up to Duran and claimed he needed to get through because of a medical emergency.
Duran said it didn't look like anyone in the car was hurt so he told the driver he couldn't make exceptions.
"If you had a medical emergency you'd be in an ambulance, you wouldn't be here," Duran told the driver.
That angered the driver, who got out of the car and attacked Duran. The blows shattered his glasses, and construction workers had to pry the two apart.
Workers called police and the man got in his car and tried to leave. West Bountiful Police Chief Wayne Jeppson said the man then backed into a construction worker, who got mad and took his hard hat and smashed the windshield of the man's car. This led to another fight.
The suspect, a Woods Cross resident, was cited for simple assault, a class B misdemeanor.
Jeppson said the suspect was in a hurry to take his father to Lakeview Hospital after something was dropped on his foot. Police later found out the foot was not broken. "The injury wasn't that bad," Jeppson said.
With the increase in construction on Utah's roads, road crew workers say drivers are becoming more and more irritable. Flaggers are especially vulnerable to road rage from impatient drivers in construction zones.
Roy Klein, manpower dispatcher for Gibbons & Reed, one of Utah's largest highway construction companies, said three of his men were sent to the hospital last year due to driver-related incidents. There have been numerous close calls.
"We've never had an accident. Every time when we've had one of our flaggers injured, it's been intentional," Klein said.
Flaggers are paid to hold a sign and be aware of traffic. They stand all day, and the comments they receive are for the most part nasty and insulting.
Duran, who lives in Washington Terrace and has a wife and three children, said he may now look for other work.
"I'm supposed to go in for recertification, but I don't know if I'll go back to flagging."