Family of MoDOT worker killed in work zone asks lawmakers to toughen license revocation law

More than two-and-a-half years after Lyndon Ebker was struck and killed while working on a MoDOT Road Crew, the man that struck him was still driving.  Ebker’s family, the Department of Transportation, and Representative Aaron Griesheimer (R-Washington) say that’s not right, and they’re asking the legislature to change state law because of it.

MoDOT employee Lyndon Ebker of New Haven was killed in an April 2016 accident in a work zone outside his hometown. His death prompted the filing of House Bill 499. (photo courtesy of the Ebker family)

“When I say we lost a good man, I mean we lost a good man,” Ebker’s daughter, Nicole Herbel, told the House Transportation Committee.  “A man who cared for others and always put others in front of himself.  If you would’ve been able to ask him why he would’ve told you just what he told me:  ‘I do what needs to be done,’ Let’s do what needs to be done and fix this process together.”

The man who struck Ebker was later revealed to have macular degeneration.  Even so, neither his physician, family, nor law enforcement investigating the crash reported him as an unsafe driver, to require that he take driver testing.

The committee is considering House Bill 499, which would allow a driver’s license to be revoked if that driver hits a highway worker or an emergency responder while in a properly marked work or emergency zone.  The license would be revoked upon notification by law enforcement to the Department of Revenue.

“The purpose of this bill is to, obviously, protect our highway workers,” said Griesheimer, the bill’s sponsor.  “We have a need out there.”

Backers say the bill would make sure whether drivers who have been involved in work zone accidents are competent to be on the roads.  A driver whose license has been revoked could seek reinstatement by taking and passing the written and driving parts of the driver’s license exam, or petitioning for a court hearing.

Since 2000, work zone incidents have claimed the lives of 13 employees of Director Patrick McKenna’s Department of Transportation.  He told the committee, “Justice was not operating quickly,” in the case that left Ebker dead.

Lyndon Ebker’s daughter, Nicole Herdell, recounted for lawmakers the work zone incident that killed her father in 2016 and asked them to pass House Bill 499. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“This is a substantial problem for us.  In these cases – we are talking about at-fault crashes, not accidents.  That is a distinction, and that is a distinction that there is due process to determine.  We’re not looking to remove anybody’s rights.  We’re simply trying to be able to operate and maintain the system with safety,” said McKenna.

State Maintenance Engineer Becky Almeroth told the committee other workers in the region where Ebker was killed felt unsafe after the accident because the driver who hit him was still on the road.

“For the last 2.5 years those coworkers in this very tight-knit community had to live with the fact that they would get texts on an almost weekly basis, several times a week, letting them know that this driver was out driving at the time.  So their minds at the time, they’re not going to put a work zone in that area because they know the routes that he usually takes.  There are many times that these workers saw him in the convenience store, saw him in the grocery store, and they know this is somebody that could potentially put others in harm’s way,” said Almeroth.

Griesheimer said he is considering amending the bill to say that drivers could also have their licenses revoked for hitting utility workers in work zones.  One lawmaker suggested extending the language to cover hitting anyone in a work zone.

The committee has not yet voted on his bill.