BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — As a part of an effort to remember Caltrans workers killed on the job, 189 cones were set up in Bakersfield Tuesday.
According to the State of California's Department of Transportation, most Caltrans work-related deaths are from reckless or distracted driving.
We pass them during our commutes, we see them in orange vests and improving our roads, but we don’t always stop to think about what they do every day or who they are.
That's not the case for Mark Reiss and Dannie Jones.
“He took care of me and raised me, and he was a really good father. He and my father got married in 1977, and he raised me until he died.”
Mark Reiss lost his stepfather, Caltrans worker David Jones, in 1999. David’s brother, Dannie Jones, said it was in a work-related accident on Highway 58.
Reiss and Jones said David loved his work.
“You go down the highway, and you see all the Caltrans guys hanging on their shovel. I’d see him a lot because I drove around a lot in the area that he worked, and he was never laying on the shovel!”
The 189 safety cones are to remember each fallen Caltrans worker, nine are from District 6, which includes Bakersfield.
For the family members of David Jones, seeing their loved ones honored in this way brings them comfort.
“It helps me deal with his loss. When I come here and see the cone and everything, it helps me a lot,” said Reiss.
Caltrans holds these memorials every year, although their 32nd annual ceremony on Tuesday was their first in two years because of the pandemic.
Caltrans District Director, Diana Gomez said thankfully they haven't lost anyone in the line of duty since 1999.
"We cannot bring them back, but we can continue to honor them by preventing future tragedies."
On their end, Gomez said they’re committed to training new employees, operator training, defensive driver training, technical training, safety training, improving equipment, and personnel protection.
Caltrans also asks everyone on the roads to drive responsibly, because they report that most Caltrans deaths on duty are the cause of “reckless or inattentive driving."
“Their workplace is next to 70 mile per hour traffic. Most people work in an office, or somewhere where they don't have to deal with these types of threats, so it's just so important for us to get that word out and ask people to please slow down and pay attention," said John Liu, Caltrans District 6 Deputy District Director of Maintenance and Operations.