A flag person working on the Trans-Canada Highway is bruised and shaken after an angry driver deliberately bumped her with his car on Wednesday.
The driver is now facing charges under the Motor Vehicle Act and police continue to investigate the matter.
“It appears the traffic control person had vehicles stopped to allow a dump truck to exit when they noted a male waiting to be waved through was on a cell phone. The male was advised that he would have to get off the cell phone before being allowed to pass,” says Sgt. Carlos Tettolowski, of the Salmon Arm RCMP.
Tettowlowski says male driver then moved forward slowly and bumped the traffic control person with his vehicle. The traffic control person moved back away from the vehicle and the driver again moved forward slowly and bumped the flag person again.
The owner of the traffic control firm, Alliance Traffic Group, says the incident is serious but reflects the underlying problem of a lack of respect and common courtesy from drivers towards flaggers.
“Our workers put their lives on the line, staring down semis and other vehicles and they are there not to cause people an inconvenience but to help protect their safety and the safety of everyone working or driving in the area,” says John Thuot, an Alliance Traffic Group owner.
Thuot says crews will be working along the Trans-Canada as the development for the SmartCentres and its associated highway improvements are constructed until at least October.
“Drivers need to be aware this will be impacting travel and treat the directions of flag people with respect.”
Thuot says the most recent incident with the flagger being bumped by a vehicle is one of the more serious, but not the first incident at this job site.
“People are frustrated, they lose patience and they take it out on the traffic control person — the very person who is out to protect them from harm. My workers have been sworn at, had things thrown out windows at them, it’s a really challenging site.”
Disobeying the directions of flag persons can also come with financial consequences. Flag people are given the same authority to direct traffic as police and there can be significant fines for non-compliance.
Thuot appeals to drivers to be calm.
“A smile goes a long way. It’s about basic kindness. These are people out there working in some pretty tough conditions and they are just trying to do their job.”