|Jeff Romine and his grandson.|
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.