I’ve been with the Kansas
Turnpike for 39 years. And in that lengthy tenure, I’ve come to the conclusion
that I must have a target on my back. I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of my
vehicle being struck on the roadway not once, not twice, but seven times. One
time is too many, so seven is a pretty scary number.
The first time I was struck was
30 years ago on Christmas Eve where a van driving in freezing fog hit the back
of the dump truck I was on, causing a nine-car pileup with injuries. That’s not
exactly the best way to start my track record.
Then, throughout the years, I’ve
had several minor incidents. You know the story - someone who doesn’t move over
for those work lights on my truck ends up clipping my mirror, the back of a
truck, or an extension of our paving machine. While they weren’t serious
accidents, just a few inches further, and I could be writing a different story.
But, the worst incident, and my
most recent one, ended in tragedy. During an ice storm, I was assisting a woman
who had slid off the road into the ditch. I was standing in front of my truck
with the lights on watching for oncoming traffic so I could re-enter my
vehicle. I saw an oncoming vehicle, who was driving too fast for conditions,
lose control and slide in my direction. In that moment, I had to make a
split-second decision to either run to the ditch or run to the barrier wall, and
the ditch ended up being my path. The car struck the back of my truck with the
driver’s side, slamming my truck about 60 feet forward and unfortunately,
killing the driver instantly. If I hadn’t moved out of the way when I did, I
would have been killed as well.
Being a part of a moment like
that was devastating, and it’s a moment that will always stay with me.
Please, I cannot urge drivers
enough, slow down for the conditions and move over when you see maintenance
vehicles. And stay off the cell phone! It is probably one of the worst hazards
I have seen.
Just because there aren’t cones
on the road, those lights still signal a work zone. Move over.