Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Target on my back

Bruce Winkle
By Bruce Winkle, Highway Maintenance Foreman
        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.



  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing your story. I've been reading some incredible stories this week and it's unfortunate these incidents have happened. All those working along the roadways risk their lives everyday. These stories have made me more aware and I think I preach a little to others myself, lol, but it's worth having someone irritated at me. Stay safe out there! We are truly grateful for all you do!

  2. Bruce: Thanks for all you do out there on the turnpike. If everyone would stop driving distracted I'm sure it would cut down on the number of sad and tragic stories you could tell ... which would be a blessing indeed.

  3. I'm so sorry that you've been involved in so many crashes. Good examples of why people need to slow down and pay attention. Glad you are ok, and hope seven is the last number of work zone crashes for you. Thank you for your efforts.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for all you do to maintain the Turnpike for travelers. So many people think "it won't happen to me" and your story highlights that it does indeed happen. My hope is your story will touch many drivers and they will stop and think before taking unnecessary risks while driving.

  5. Bruce, you are an unsung hero. When we all head inside as the Kansas weather gets bad, you are heading out to protect the motorists who haven’t gotten home yet. Thank you for this service for 39 years!!!! Please be safe and thank you for the reminder to the rest of us to drive safe!!! Karla