JUST STOP: Flaggers talk about daily abuse, close calls following death of co-worker - InfoNews

Current Conditions


JUST STOP: Flaggers talk about daily abuse, close calls following death of co-worker

Tracy Jeeves, owner of Okanagan Traffic Control, directs vehicles at a work site on Okanagan Avenue Dec. 15, 2017.
December 15, 2017 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - When Traci Jeeves goes to work, she fully expects to get flipped the bird, sworn at, maybe even spat on. 

Most people don’t have to worry about that kind of thing when they show up to their job, but for traffic flaggers, it’s all in a day’s work.

“I’ve been lied to by people wanting to go 'just over there' when it really means they want to go over to the other end, I’ve had slurpies thrown at my staff, I’ve had staff that have been bumped by a vehicle when they want to be pushed through the line-up. You name it,” says Traci Jeeves, the owner of Okanagan Traffic Control.

Today, Jeeves is directing traffic on Okanagan Avenue in Vernon. Blonde pigtails fan out from under her hard hat as she whips her head back and forth, assessing hazards. This is a comparatively quiet job site with low traffic volume, but even still Jeeves is constantly on alert. With heavy machinery working nearby, she uses hand signals and frequent eye contact to communicate with equipment operators, other flaggers and drivers.

She’s constantly on her toes, ready to jump or tuck-and-roll at all times.

“How often do I have to move out of the way? Every single day,” she says.

The biggest myth about flagging? That all you do is stand around.

“On average, I put about 28,000 steps on my Fit Bit a day,” Jeeves says, raising her voice over the loud machinery.

She’s been flagging for more than 20 years in the Okanagan and there are few drives she can take without passing by an old work site.

“I’ve redone the intersection at Hospital Hill two times now,” she says.

She loves her job and the people she works with, but admits there are ups and downs.

“Often, we don’t get a lot of happy people. We’re making people late, we’re taking up too much of their time,” she says. “At the end of the day, we’re not trying to make anyone’s day miserable. This is what we do. This is our livelihood.”

Earning a living was what Isabelle Bourroughs, 66, was doing on Nov. 17, the day she was hit by a car. She sustained severe injuries and died in hospital roughly three weeks later. Police say the 75-year-old driver who hit her was unable to stop in time. An investigation is ongoing.

Bourroughs, known as Belle to her friends, worked for Okanagan Traffic Control. She and Jeeves were close friends.

“After the incident, I started wondering whether or not I wanted to continue,” Jeeves says. “But I think now I have to make a footprint in Isabelle’s honour that things are going to change... we’re going to hopefully be a better industry.”

Jeeves has a rigorous health and safety policy and flaggers have to complete a full assessment and plan before even setting foot on a work site. She has binders filled with the recommended configurations for every kind of site, and protocols for every situation. She thought she’d seen it all in her two decades of flagging, but admits there is a limit to what you can prepare for.

“My friend who had 37 years (experience) wasn’t expecting that. She probably would have tucked and rolled if she’d had any indication he wasn’t going to stop,” Jeeves says.

She hopes drivers will slow down and pay more attention, maybe even give a smile or a wave as they pass by a traffic control worker.

“That makes you happy, at least until the next driver comes along,” Jeeves says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
InfoTel News Ltd

  • Popular vernon News
  • Comments
  • Police search for missing Kelowna woman
    KELOWNA - Kelowna RCMP are asking for the public's help in finding a missing 27-year-old woman. RCMP say Joenna Saunders was last heard from on Nov. 27. She was reported missing on Dec.
  • Girl opens Christmas present she gave to boy when she dumped him in 1971
    ST. ALBERT, Alta. - A man in Edmonton who made international headlines for holding onto a wrapped Christmas gift from a high-school girlfriend who dumped him nearly 50 years ago finally learned wh
  • Water quality advisory in effect in North Okanagan
    NORTH OKANAGAN - The district has issued a water quality advisory for the North Okanagan. The Regional District of North Okanagan Silver Star Water Utility in conjunction with Interior Healt
  • Kamloops Fire Rescue respond to McDonalds deep fryer fire
    KAMLOOPS - A Kamloops McDonalds was temporarily closed last night due to a small deep fryer fire. Kamloops Fire Rescue arrived at the McDonalds location in Sahali at about 11:30 p.m. last ni
  • Vernon fast food restaurant held up by man with syringe
    VERNON - RCMP are on the hunt for a suspect after a robbery at a Vernon restaurant earlier this week. A man threatened staff with an allegedly contaminated needle on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Wr
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile