FRANCONIA — For Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, a visit to the pavement marking business Guidemark helps give him information that he can use as a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

But it also provides information on road safety and innovations to prevent distracted driving crashes, the Republican congressman noted after his Sept. 3 tour of the business.

"We have a lot of transportation and infrastructure needs in our region here and certainly in this congressional district," Fitzpatrick said, "and it's just helpful to see all the pieces of the puzzle that these folks are doing." 

Fitzpatrick's 1st Congressional District covers Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County, including Franconia where Guidemark is located on Hagey Road.

"Mainly, I wanted to come out here to check on not just what they do, but how they address the safety issues because that's a big concern as well," Fitzpatrick said. "Distracted driving is a huge, huge concern of mine. It's made driving much more dangerous than it used to be and it makes the work that these people do much more dangerous than it used to be."

Guidemark, founded n 1980, is the largest line striping company in Pennsylvania.

"We started out painting parking lots and just grew and grew," said Doug Dolinar, the company's president. 

In addition to line painting, the company now does other road-related work such as installing rumble strips, he said. 

Guidemark currently has about 80 employees, he said. Offshoots LimnTech, which is also located at the Franconia site, and Guidemark Precision Machine, which is in Quakertown, each have six employees. 

"We've got long-term employees and they're all good people, which makes all the difference in the world," Dolinar said.

Safety first

Rumble strips and wider and brighter road lines are some of the ways streets are being made safer, he said.

"The wider lines literally are saving lives just because people see them better," Dolinar said. 

LimnTech, which uses a GPS system in a vehicle to map out existing road markings, replaces the previous way that work was done by workers standing on the road, generally at nighttime, he said. 

"I came up with that idea and developed it to get our guys off the road because it's just, it's beyond dangerous standing out on the road at night with traffic going by you on both sides. It's incredibly dangerous," he said. 

Three company employees were hit by drivers during the past 10 years, he said. He said he attributes the cause to an increase in distracted drivers because no employees were hit in the business' earlier years. 

The LimnTech system saves both lives and money and is now being used by other line striping businesses nationwide and beyond, Dolinar said.

"We've got one in Canada, so I guess we're international now," he said.

Road crew risk

About 700 people per year are killed in highway work zones, said David Bell, director of government relations for the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA). Dolinar is one of the board members of the Washington, DC-based organization. 

"There's approximately 37,000 fatalities on our roadways on an annual basis," Bell said. 

That includes pedestrians and cyclists, as well as vehicle drivers and passengers, he said. 

"Serious injuries are hundreds of thousands," Bell said.

"In 2017 there were 3,166 people killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers," the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a report. There were 599 people who were not in vehicles, such as pedestrians and bicyclists, killed in distraction-affected crashes, the report said. Distracted driving may also be under reported, the report said. 

In a recent published interview, the wives of two Franconia Township road crew workers struck by a distracted driver called for more stringent laws to protect workers in construction zones.

David Smith was killed and Jeffrey Moyer badly injured while the two Franconia Township Public Works employees were part of a crew doing line painting Sept. 5, 2017, on the road in front of West Broad Street Elementary School.

Luciana Stock, now 22, of Souderton, was driving at 39 miles per hour when she looked away from the road for 6.3 seconds and hit the workers, investigators said. She was sentenced earlier this year to 11½ to 23 months in jail, five years probation and 100 hours of community service.    

The victims' wives Karen Smith and Stacey Moyer say changes to state laws are needed to try to prevent similar incidents in the future. Specifically, some of the improvements they suggest, like clearer markings and rumble strips to bring distracted drivers' attention back to the road, are the kinds of things Guidemark emphasizes, according to the tour dialogue. 

Expanding options

Infrastructure work includes jobs in more than paving roads and building bridges, Dolinar said.

"There's line striping. There's the guardrail. There's the signs. There's the traffic control companies," he said.  

Fitzpatrick said he visits 100 businesses in his district each year. 

"That's where I do the overwhelming majority of my learning is by talking to small business owners just to check up on them and see how they're doing," he said. 

The visits also help increase communication, he said.   

  

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