A turnpike worker was struck by a tractor-trailer at a New Jersey Turnpike toll plaza Thursday morning.
The accident happened at Exit 7A on the turnpike, which is in Robbinsville, Mercer County. It's unclear how the worker got struck by the big rig. According to officials, the worker is hospitalized in Trenton and her condition at this point is unknown.
“We’re just praying she’s okay. It’s a very dangerous place to work out on these toll plazas,” said Franceline Ehret, President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 194, the union that represents NJ Turnpike toll collectors.
“You really do put your life on the line every day when you work out there. A couple of years ago, a car hit a toll booth, knocked it backwards and the toll collector got trapped in a booth; had to be cut out.”
Ehret said the victim in today’s accident may not be a toll collector. From the Initial reports she has received, Ehret believes the woman may be a former toll collector who was recently promoted to a supervisory position. But she stresses that anyone who works at the toll plazas has to be alert.
“We’ve had people’s booths get hit and had people get very badly hurt, especially now that we have EZ-Pass and vehicles don’t stop,” Ehret said. “Sometimes those trucks come through and your whole booth just shakes.”
The union doesn’t have statistics on the number of workers who’ve been injured on the job by drivers, Ehret said. She not remember any toll collectors being hit and killed in recent years.
"We did have a state trooper get killed at Exit 12. He was doing seat belt checks and he slipped under a truck and got killed."
The Turnpike has added rumble strips to help slow drivers down as they approach the toll plazas. Ehret says other safety measures have been considered, such as lowering the speed limit, but that the idea in particular is just too unpopular with drivers.
“If we had gates and everybody had to stop, that would be safer too, but we don’t expect that to ever happen,” she said.
Ehret would like to appeal to drivers to consider the danger for workers when they pass through the tolls.