Thursday, April 12, 2018

A nutty, but still serious day

Jeff Romine and his grandson.

        My name is Jeff Romine, I am currently the Area Superintendent in Area Five (Wamego). I have worked for the Kansas Department of Transportation for 35 years.  I started out as an Equipment Operator in 1983. 
        Safety has been improved for KDOT employees and for the public a great deal since I first started working for KDOT. For example, I can remember having to set up six signs when setting up a work zone, three on each side.  Now, depending on the situation, there may be a combination of 10 signs, cones and rumble strips to alert traffic of a pending work site.
        During my tenure at KDOT, I have seen many close calls ranging from cars hitting the flagman’s flagging paddle to the mirrors of cars striking workers in the work zone. I have been lucky enough not to see any deaths as a result of a work zone crash, although there have been some.
        One of the crashes that stands out in my mind happened in the summer of 1986 on U.S. 75. We were providing traffic control while Equipment Operators using equipment cleaned bridge decks. All our work signs were up and flagmen in the correct locations. 
        I was helping to provide traffic control, it was a clear mid-morning day. I stopped a van to allow for traffic to pass through from the other lane. I then moved closer to the center of the roadway and checked for other oncoming traffic.
        I noticed a car that seemed to be moving faster than I considered to be safe. I realized he was not slowing so I tried to get his attention by waving the paddle as there was still traffic coming from the other direction.  
        I alerted the driver of the van of the oncoming car and I was forced to jump over the guard rail and into the ditch. The car hit the van from behind, causing the back of the van to bust open. The van was carrying a load of bagged walnuts.  Immediately the highway was covered with walnuts. I ran back out to check on the drivers of both vehicles, thankfully finding them not severely injured. 
        As other vehicles continued in the other lane they were running over the walnuts causing them to shoot through the air, this of course caused another danger as the walnuts pounded workers and other cars.
        I can laugh about it now and joke that 32 years later, walnuts still haunt me. But the seriousness of that situation will never be funny. An adult could have been in the back of that van. Or a child. And they could have been injured, or worse.
        Please drive safe in work zones and protect everyone – motorists and highway workers.




  1. Thank you for your story, Jeff! I probably wouldn't ever want to eat walnuts after a situation like that. I'm glad it wasn't more serious.

  2. So glad that was just walnuts in the back of the van. It's so scary what you all go through out there while working to improve the roads. Thank you for your efforts.

  3. Jeff, Thanks for sharing your story. I'm sure that you have had many close calls during your career at KDOT. Work zone safety challenges that you faced when you started have not really changed. Distracted driving has occurred since the advent of the automobile. The reality is that there are more vehicles on the road with many more distractions. Like you mentioned, KDOT has made many enhancements to work zone traffic control setup. The use of florescent orange signs and rumble strips are intended to catch the attention of the distracted driver. As technology advances, KDOT will continue to evaluate and use the most cost effective equipment.

  4. Work zone crashes aren't a new phenomenon as your story shows. Even though KDOT is improving its work zone setups, it's still up to drivers to pay attention! Hope your story will remind readers to slow down and just drive.

  5. What a great story Jeff. Your sense of humor while conveying an important message is a testament to character. Thanks for all you do on our roads.