Tuesday, April 30, 2019

KDOT announces Kansas airport improvement projects

Topeka – Forty-one projects totaling a combined award of $5 million have been granted for the Kansas Airport Improvement Program (KAIP) funding for planning, constructing or rehabilitating public use general aviation airports.

The aviation industry represents $20.6 billion economic impact and employs more than 92,000 Kansans. In addition, 94 percent of the state’s population is within 30 minutes of air ambulance operations.

“We are proud of the collaboration between our department and airport sponsors to increase safety, enhance economic development and support the transportation needs of Kansans,” said Secretary of Transportation Julie Lorenz.

The KAIP program requires airport sponsors to share in project costs by paying a portion of the total project. The KDOT Division of Aviation, which manages the program, considered 119 project applications this year with a combined total value of more than $29 million. 

“KAIP has not only funded key improvements at local airports, it has helped create a statewide aviation network that enhances both the health and economic wellbeing of the entire state,” said Bob Brock, KDOT Director of Aviation.  

Communities selected for funding and the amount requested include:
Anthony – Airports Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) survey and flight check – $52,250
Atchison – Surface seal of runway – $56,925
Atwood – Update fuel card reader – $17,000
Augusta – Reconstruct apron access to community hangar – $76,500
Beloit – Airfield maintenance equipment – $16,250
Benton – 17/35 runway preservation – $321,867
Elkhart – Airports Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) Study – $76,000
Emporia – 1/19 runway sealcoat and preservation –$411,500
Fort Scott – Airports Geographic Information Systems (AGIS) updates and runway extension design – $152,000
Gardner – 8/26 runway/apron/taxilane pavement preservation – $90,000
Garnett – 1/19 runway seal and repair high severity cracks – $40,500
Hiawatha – 10/28 runway edge lighting design – $19,000; 17/35 runway edge lighting design – $19,000; taxilane renovation design and construction – $61,890
Hoxie – Phase II: runway rehab – $303,440
Independence – South apron runup area renovation – $721,500; fuel systems – $36,335
Kingman – Precision approach path indicator (PAPI) replacement – $182,963
Kinsley – construct tiedowns – $10,949
La Crosse – Operations support equipment – $45,000
Lakin – Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) III – $176,250; 14/32 runway mill and overlay design and construction – $303,250
Liberal – Runway marking removal and replacement – $248,500
Oberlin – Height and hazard survey – $38,000
Ottawa – Pavement preservation on parallel and connection taxiway system – $173,250
Pittsburg –Replace Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) ceilometer –$43,200; remove obstructing trees – $18,000
Quinter – Install Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) III – $135,000
Rose Hill – Crack seal– $16,200; upgrade fuel credit card terminal – $14,875; mill and overlay runway 17/35 – $174,600
Salina – Phase II: ramp reconstruction – $720,000
St. Francis – Extend SE taxiway – $133,200

Monday, April 29, 2019

This severe weather season, use common sense: Storm Fury on the Plains classes held across the state

Wichita National Weather Service Meteorologist Chance Hayes presents information during a recent ‘Storm Fury on the Plains’ session. KDOT staff from the Southeast District Office attended this session for the general public, which took place at Independence.

By Priscilla Petersen, Public Affairs Manager, Southeast Kansas 

In advance of this year’s severe storm season, the National Weather Service of Wichita presented a series of seminars titled “Storm Fury on the Plains” in cities throughout the state. Open to the public, the Storm Fury seminars focused on building partnerships, improving communication and promoting greater trust between members of the public and the agency.

“Don’t be afraid to call us,” meteorologist Chance Hayes told the almost 40 people attending an early April session in Independence. Hayes encouraged continual public reporting of severe weather events, either by calling NWS directly or by sending Tweets with the hashtag #kswx. If it’s safe, he added, take a photo and share it in a Tweet. “We’re a team. It takes a full team effort to improve.”

During the year 2018, Hayes said, Kansas experienced: a total of 297 severe storms with high winds, hail and flooding; 20 tornadoes that touched down; a four-inch hailstone that fell in Barton County; and 87 mile-per-hour straight line winds in Rice County.

An EF-3 tornado moved through the city of Eureka last spring and damaged homes and buildings at the KDOT subarea office. 

He discussed all aspects of the EF-3 tornado that moved through the city of Eureka without warning last June 26. Hayes described the differences between what was showing up on NWS radar and the views shared by local spotters on the ground. He emphasized that radar can’t pick everything up as well as the human eye. “Let us know …” if the conditions you see are different from those on the radar, he said. “Your eyes are just as important as the radar.”

Hayes also discussed storm spotting basics, describing inflow and outflow regions and types of storms. He gave an overview of storm features such as squall lines, shelf clouds and supercells. If it’s looking stormy, he told the group, “always check your surroundings” and weigh the potential risks before traveling. Study the cloud formations and the smartphone weather radar. “Observe the storm,” he said, and consider whether to take a break and let the storm pass instead of driving into it. Hayes also encouraged the group to download free weather radar applications to their phones. “Use it to stay safe,” he cautioned.

Touching briefly on flood safety tips, Hayes said water flowing at four miles-per-hour can exert a force comparable to an EF-2 tornado. In the event of severe weather, he stressed that people should be prepared, act quickly and seek shelter. He suggested that those staying at local storm shelters keep whistles handy so that relatives and friends could find each other in crowded conditions. “Use common sense,” Hayes concluded.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Check this out: The Big Kansas Roadtrip features northwest corner of the state

By Lisa Mussman, Northwest Kansas Public Affairs Manager 

It’s time to hit the road to northwest Kansas for the Kansas Sampler Foundation’s second annual Big Kansas Road Trip the weekend of May 2-5.

Cheyenne, Wallace and Sherman counties are this year’s featured destinations for the event, which was created to be an active, fun way to bring people together to explore the state, and to make an economic and social difference in the showcase counties.

 Participants choose where to go and what they want to see over the course of the weekend, as there is no organized tour. The event serves as somewhat of an open house for each county to offer up what travelers can see, do, hear, taste, buy and learn in their communities.

Highlights of the weekend will include self-guided tours of the Arikaree Breaks in Cheyenne County, a lemonade contest and lawn croquet at the historic Ennis-Handy house in Goodland, Michael Martin Murphy performances at the Fort Wallace Museum in Wallace and a poker run through all three counties along the Land and Sky Scenic Byway. A complete list of events and attractions can be found on the Big Kansas Road Trip website at www.bigkansasroadtrip.com.

Some tips and reminders to keep in mind during this year’s road trip:

  • Pack a lawn chair
  • Restaurants will serve until the food is gone
  • Grocery stores are located in each of the county seats (St. Francis, Goodland and Sharon Springs) and in Bird City.
  • Not every town has gas stations, so gas up whenever you can
  • When crossing cattle guards, keep an eye out for cattle on the roads - they have the right of way!
  • It’s a courtesy to bring rolls of toilet paper and offer them to businesses that are opening their bathrooms.
  • MT or MDT is Mountain or Mountain Daylight Time; CT or CDT is Central or Central Daylight Time.

 And lastly, don’t forget your camera! Be sure to use the hashtag #BKRT19 when sharing photos on your favorite social media sites. You can also share on the Big Kansas Road Trip Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Road construction and detour technology innovations

KDOT crew members from Garden City installed a temporary detour sign for the
U.S. 50/83 bypass project earlier this year. 

Road construction season is here and those orange barrels and cones seem to be popping up everywhere. While some may be frustrated by this season, road construction is essential to effectively and efficiently maintain our highways. Thanks to technology and innovation, today’s drivers can navigate road construction and detours much easier than drivers in the past. 

For example, 50 years ago when a driver encountered a detour, the driver had two options— follow the detour signs and most likely arrive late to their destination or get out the paper map and find an alternate route.  Eventually, road construction, detour routes and traffic updates became available on the radio and in the newspaper, making it easier for drivers to anticipate detours and delays and choose an alternate route if possible. 

Drivers today can access detour information in many ways, making it possible to avoid road construction and detours altogether. This makes it easier to prepare for and navigate road construction and detours when necessary.  Social media apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give cities, counties and states the ability to communicate current information on road construction and detours to drivers with minimal delay, so that drivers can better plan their travel.

In addition, apps like Mapquest, Googlemaps and Waze provide a variety of tools including live traffic updates, road closure information and even alternate routes.

In metro areas, drivers will often find smart work zones that are designed to predict travel time and delays or speed through the construction zone in real time.  Alternate routes and travel times using those routes may also be predicted by allowing drivers to make informed decisions ahead of work zones. 

These smart zones help prevent driver frustration, encourage drivers to take alternate routes, reduce congestion and keep traffic flowing. They also help make work zones safer for both travelers and highway workers.

In addition, many state DOTs have their own websites and/or apps that provide detailed road construction and detour maps and current road conditions.  Kansas road conditions are available by visiting www.Kandrive.org. 

KDOT encourages drivers to take advantage of these and other technology and travel innovations. Remember to “know before you go,” in order to make travel as enjoyable and safe as possible during this road construction season.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Kansas Law Enforcement cracks down on drugged driving: Increased enforcement to take place over 420 weekend

TOPEKA, Kan. — According to a 2016 AAA poll in Kansas, only 63 percent of people consider driving after using marijuana ‘a very serious threat’ to their personal safety. In 2017, there were 287 crashes attributed to illegal drug use in Kansas.  Eighty-three persons lost their lives in these crashes.

“There’s a misconception that marijuana doesn’t affect your ability to drive,” said Chris Bortz, Traffic Safety Program Manager for the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT). “That is just false. Illegal drugs can impair a person’s judgment, concentration and reaction time. Driving under the influence of any impairing substance is illegal for a reason.”

There will be increased traffic enforcement and police visibility across the state to crack down on drugged driving. This enforcement will run from April 19-21, where 420 (April 20th) is largely recognized for its social attention on marijuana.

Law enforcement and prosecutors will also be enforcing a “No Refusal Weekend” in which all suspected impaired drivers who refuse a breath test may be subject to blood testing. Officers will be extra vigilant this weekend to detect all impaired drivers and consequently testing for both alcohol and drugs.

Marijuana laws are rapidly changing across the United States, including states bordering Kansas, leading to more drivers under the influence of marijuana. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2007-2014, there was a 48 percent increase in drivers testing positive for marijuana across the nation. These findings demonstrate the imminent danger on our roads and the importance of raising awareness of the risks of drug impaired driving.

“With this enforcement and our education efforts, we hope that 100 percent of Kansas drivers recognize and understand this serious issue,” said Mark A. Dupree, Wyandotte County District Attorney. “Driving under the influence of drugs is dangerous and deadly. We want people to arrive to their destinations safely, and that starts with smart decisions by both drivers and passengers.”

Drug impaired driving does lead to crashes, serious injury and even death. Kansans will see law enforcement agencies out in full force this weekend, pulling over drivers that exhibit signs of impaired driving due to drugs or alcohol.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

It takes a brave person to do what they do: Move over for highway workers, law enforcement and emergency responders

By Ashley Tammen, 
North Central Kansas Public Affairs Manager

Earlier this week I had the privilege of going on a ride-along with Trooper Ben Gardner from the Kansas Highway Patrol. I was able to witness what highway workers, law enforcement and emergency personnel face every day while performing their job duties along the highways. I will say without hesitation - it takes a brave person to do what they do.

KHP Trooper Ben Gardner stops a motorist along
the side of the road. 
During our ride-along, Trooper Ben pulled over one motorist for speeding, but when he did, he stood only a few feet away from traveling vehicles. I witnessed a large tractor trailer fly by his left side on the Interstate as he was talking to the motorist through the driver’s side window. The semi must have been traveling at least 70 miles per hour and it did not slow down.

I could tell by Trooper Ben’s reaction that he has experienced this several times and was used to vehicles not moving over. When I told Trooper Ben that I couldn’t believe how close the semi was to him he just shrugged and said, “Yeah, I know.” He then got back in his patrol vehicle, buckled up and went on with his day.

Watching the semi skim by him was a scary feeling for me to watch. I can’t even begin to imagine what our troopers are feeling when they feel the momentum of a vehicle right next to them.

Last week was National Work Zone Awareness Week and numerous transportation-related agencies worked together to help raise awareness of the need for safety for those working along the highways. It was a focused time to promote work zone safety, but it needs to be a priority for motorists all year long. I saw firsthand what all the people who work along the highways see all too frequently – lives are on the line in work zones.

I stress and urge motorists to move over when they see a trooper or anyone on the side of the road. If you can’t get over right away, be patient and slow down so you can get over safely. Do your part while driving to keep our troopers safe because they work to keep us safe.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Acts of kindness: KDOT crews assist travelers in need of help

Acts of kindness at KDOT is not uncommon and it does not go unnoticed. Many employees have earned the upmost respect from their surrounding community by lending a helpful hand when it’s needed the most. 

“It’s common for equipment operators to pull over in their plow truck to help stranded motorists and check on the safety of those who may be inside,” said Donnie Burkholder, Equipment Operator Senior in Salina. 

When Strong City Equipment Operators Carl Zorn and Dean Switzer were doing route checks, they pulled over to help two motorists who blew a tire. They not only helped the couple to safely change the tire on a busy road but also helped to call a local shop and locate a new tire. Dave and Debbie McCarthy then wrote a nice thank you letter to KDOT expressing their gratitude to Zorn and Switzer. 

KDOT Equipment Operators Dean Switzer  and Carl Zorn from the Strong City office assisted two motorists who blew a tire. 
In another example, on an afternoon heading west on I-70 after a day of training in Topeka, Kenny Cohen, Highway Maintenance Supervisor in Junction City, pulled over to help a woman change a flat tire. “The young woman had tears in her eyes and expressed sincere gratitude when I helped her,” said Cohen. Cohen says he and his crew have also helped to deliver fuel to stranded motorists and assisted motorists to find help for a broken-down vehicle.  

KDOT workers face many different scenarios with when finding a vehicle on the side of the road. Doug Newquist, Highway Maintenance Supervisor in Beloit, said he will never forget when he pulled up to a vehicle from out of state who was parked on the side of the road because their family dog had just passed away while traveling. Newquist helped the family locate a nearby vet for cremation services while they were out of state. “Anytime a motorist is stranded on the side of the road it is our duty to stop and check on them,” Newquist said.

Amy Allen says she will never forget the story of when her husband, Scott Allen, Highway Maintenance Supervisor in Salina, pulled over to check on a stranded vehicle and found a girl in tears who was about to take her own life. “Scott reacted quickly by comforting the girl and immediately called law enforcement who later told him he probably saved that young girl’s life when he found her on the side of the road,” said Amy.

Cody Deneault, Equipment Operator from Belleville, assisted a driver who was stuck in the snow earlier during a snow and ice event this past winter. 

This past winter many KDOT employees showed that by putting in long hours to help the team battle the removal of snow and ice. When you may have been at home sleeping in bed or sitting down to dinner, several workers at KDOT were putting on their work boots and winter coats so they could work to clear the highways and help keep Kansas moving. In one example, Cody Deneault, Equipment Operator in Belleville, pulled over to help a motorist get their vehicle unstuck by digging out the snow around it, laying salt under its wheels, and even helping to push the car out.

In another example, Clyde Thrush, Highway Maintenance Supervisor in Minneapolis, was there when a citizen desperately needed his help to get the emergency care needed by clearing the path in his plow truck, so the local ambulance could get to the hospital.

KDOT Highway Maintenance Supervisor from Minneapolis cleared the way for an emergency vehicle so they could make it to the hospital in time to save a life. 
These acts of kindness make them the hidden heroes on our state’s highways by being there when you need help the most. They don’t wear capes and to them it is just part of the job as they pull over in their orange hat or vest expecting nothing in return but a smile. 

Whether it be needing to sit in a warm truck until help arrives on a cold winter night, being broken down on the side of the road and needing to call for help, or just needing help to safely drive from one location to another in bad winter conditions, KDOT workers are there to help.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Safety for both my families

Randy Laflen, seated at right, and his family.
By Randy Laflen
When I was asked to write a safety blog for KDOT, the first idea that came to my mind was safety for my family; both my family at home and my work family.
I am a third generation Laflen of now what is the fourth going on fifth generation of Laflens working for Hall Brothers Inc. Like my ancestors before me, we want to go home each night to our families. When my granddad, dad and uncles were building roads in the 50s and 60s they had traffic control that worked well, but was pretty minimal. They did their best in what seemed like a safe work environment, but it was in need of much improvement.
Over the years, signs, cones and flaggers were added to the jobs. Now there are highly reflective signs, channelizers, flaggers and pilot cars. There are signs and safety devices being added each for the safety of the public and the workers. We are continuously adding safety classes, CPR classes, first aid classes, safety materials and safety apparel for our employees’ safety.
Hall Brothers Inc. has been my employer for the past 41 years. As the Vice President of Construction, I pride myself in the fact that the day after I graduated from high school, I started my career in road construction. From flagging the first week that I was employed, to learning how to operate each piece of equipment, and to becoming Vice President - I realize how important safety is in all aspects of completing each job and the need for safety in the work environment in which our workers are in every day.  The crews that we employ for the construction of new roads in Kansas are like family to me and to the company.
My own family, wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandson deserve the opportunity to drive on well-constructed roads. Like other companies, we want to make this the traveling public’s opportunity also. Making the public aware of work zones is not to inconvenience anyone or to disrupt the traveling public, but for the safety of our workers. This allows the same workers to construct and to continue to build better roadways for the future drivers and traveling families.
With spring and summer quickly approaching, Kansas road construction will soon be in full swing. As you are driving these wonderful highways, please be aware and realize these roads that have been built in the past and the new ones that are being constructed now are for you and your families. Drive safe, work safe and help keep Kansas roads safe.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Words that will haunt me

By Dominic Harrington
Dominic Harrington and his wife, Rachel.
1454 to Area Four, 1454 TO AREA FOUR! 
Those words will haunt me my entire KDOT career. My name is Dominic Harrington and I am the District One Maintenance Superintendent in Topeka.
It was the morning of June 1, 2005, and I was a newly-minted KDOT Equipment Operator. It was a cloudy, rainy day and like so many others we were sent out to run our route, pick up trash, remove dead animals, straighten signs and so on. It seemed to be just another normal day in a Subarea, but this morning would be anything but normal.
Shortly after starting our day, we heard a frantic call over the radio, one of our co-workers had been struck on U.S. 75 highway. I thought to myself, “How could this happen?” Nobody should be on the roadway working this morning. Another co-worker and I were near the location of the incident, so we hurried as fast as we could to see if there was anything we could do to help. Luckily, a Kansas Highway Patrol Officer was already on scene and had called for an ambulance and back up to assist with traffic control.
Scotty McDonald had been struck and killed while picking up trash down in the ditch, off the edge of the roadway. Prior to this accident, our crew had always considered this a “safe place” to be working. One moment of inattentive driving had cost Scotty the ultimate price.
In the following days we abstained from working on the roads, attended grief counseling and generally were in a state of shock. The “safe place” we had was gone, leaving everyone on edge while working along the road. Fourteen years later when I hear a call to an Area Office, I always assume the worst has happened again.
Sometimes when really bad things happen, some good can come from it. Thanks to Marvin and Shirley McDonald, parents of Scotty, who have continued to show their support for roadworkers and their safety. With their help, the Move Over Law was enacted July 1, 2006, which has greatly helped to improve roadside safety. And Shirley has spoken at many events over the years about the need for safety in work zones. Marvin and Shirley, if you happen to read this, thank you!
Wherever your travels may take you, please watch out for emergency and maintenance crews working on the road. A few seconds to slow down and move over could make all the difference to someone’s father, mother, uncle, aunt or grandparent. Thank you.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Why didn't you have any signs up, asks distracted driver

By Kade Cooper
Kade Cooper with his wife, Jackie, and kids Kinley and Andrew.
My name is Kade Cooper and I am the Subarea Supervisor for the Belleville Subarea in north central Kansas. I have been a part of the KDOT team for 15 years, spending the last eight years as the Supervisor. 
One of my biggest fears as a Supervisor is having to go to a family member’s house and letting them know that their loved one, one of my crew members, has been hit and killed on the road. That is news that no one wants to receive or give ever. By the grace of God, I have not had to break that news, and I pray that I never have to.
With that being said, we have had close calls on our routes. Whether we are on U.S. 81 patching potholes and watching the traffic buzz past us, or on K-148 working on guardrail as 18-wheelers see how close they can get to our flaggers, no route should ever be a place to lose focus. 
One incident that stands out to me and that has shaped me into the person I am today happened when I was an Equipment Operator with the Mankato Subarea in 2004. It was an uncomfortably hot June day and we were replacing a tube on K-28 east of Jewell.
In those days, we only needed the road work ahead, one lane road ahead and flagger signs out to cover our work zone. I was flagging one end of the work zone when I heard the faint hum of wheels on the highway growing louder. Usually you can hear that sound before you see the vehicle coming. I started paying a little closer attention to my surroundings, waiting for the vehicle to come into view. 
As the pickup came into view, I noticed a small car driving rather close behind this vehicle. I started to wave my arms and raised the stop/slow paddle to make myself appear larger. I could hear the pickup idle down, however, the small car revved its engine and passed the pickup coming into our work zone. 
As a rather green rookie, I was nervous not knowing if I would get this car stopped in time or if I would have to holler on the radio and jump out of the way into the ditch. It happened to be the latter of the two! 
I yelled at the crew in the work zone and threw my flagging paddle towards the middle of the lane that I was standing in and flung myself into the ditch. From what I could hear, the flagging paddle made contact with the car where I would have been standing, and that is what got the driver’s attention.
When he got stopped, and I got out of the ditch, he got out of his car and asked if I was alright and said that he didn’t know there was any work around and why didn’t we have any signs up! The entire crew pointed back the direction that he came and from where we were standing, we could see all three of the warning signs in that direction. 
I came out of that without a scratch and gained a new-found respect for what my fellow crew members had been experiencing for years. I learned that you can have everything set up correctly and can still have a close call. I learned that it will never be the traveling public’s fault in their eyes. I learned that a flagging paddle will make one heck of a sound when it hits a car motoring down the road!  I learned that being focused on that sound and seeing both of those vehicles when I did probably saved my life. I learned that I don’t ever want my family to get a visit from my Supervisor because I was in the right place at the wrong time. 
That is not the only close call that I have been around, but it is the only one that I’ve had to dive out of the way! I can look back at it now and chuckle about how hard the paddle hit that car, but cringe to think that it could have been me making that sound.
So, I will leave my fellow highway workers with this - please stay focused at the task at hand. It may only take milliseconds for you to have to make a decision that could save your life or the life of your coworker. You have no idea what the motorists are doing or thinking in their 75-mph world, so stay alert, stay safe and go home to your families at the end of the day!


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

I’ve already had a close call

Kayne Kraus

By Kayne Kraus
I’ve only been with the Kansas Turnpike for a couple of years now, and just like many of my fellow co-workers, I’ve already had a close call in a work zone.
Last summer, while we were string lining to prepare for painting, I heard a nearly indescribable sound behind me. It was like a loud “BOOM!” but even that description isn’t quite right. The noise scared me half to death, and when I turned around, there was a vehicle sandwiched between the wall and the attenuator. The driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and hit the attenuator that was a couple hundred feet behind me. Fortunately, the driver was alright, though clearly in shock of what had just happened.
This isn’t a unique story. In fact, you will find similar stories in work zones across the country each year. But, I can’t help but wonder - What if the attenuator hadn’t been there? Would the driver have been injured, or worse? What would have happened to me, or my co-workers?
This would be a different story, and very possibly, one I wouldn’t be telling myself.
It’s easy to let these moments get to you. When you have an experience like this, it can rattle you. Some of my co-workers have had their own close calls in work zones. It’s scary to think that these life-threatening moments could have had a different ending. What’s even scarier is that more than likely this will happen again.
Please, I urge all drivers - pay attention while you’re driving, and especially in work zones. Put down the phone. Stop to eat. Get plenty of rest. We have families and friends we want to get home safely to. Drive like you work here.

Kayne Kraus is an Equipment Operator Kansas Turnpike’s office in Admire.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Don’t be that driver

By Ted C. Coleman
Ted Coleman
The theme of my story is “Don’t be that driver.” This week is National Work Zone Awareness Week. I would like to share some things I have experienced in my 34-year career here at KDOT and help raise awareness about keeping drivers and highway workers safe.
Highway workers work hard, long hours in tough weather and they put themselves in harm’s way daily. We need to keep the workers safe, and we need to keep all the drivers safe too.
Kansas has averaged more than 1,700 work zone crashes a year during the past 10 years, which is way more than when I started working at KDOT in 1985. Back then we patched potholes without attenuators on our trucks. I won’t step out into a traffic lane without an attenuator these days.
People’s behavior and attention to driving has changed dramatically since the tech boom of the 1990s. Drivers have cell phones, video players, X-Box games and lap top computers. Drivers’ eyes are on technology and ear buds are on teenagers’ ears while driving now. Let alone people eating their fast food and putting on make-up while driving down the highway. We all know somebody like this in our lives, correct?
It can be scary at times out working or traveling on the Kansas highways. People are not paying attention, they’re distracted, they’re texting, they’re talking on the phone, eating their fast food, watching their GPS or computer installed in their cars now, so you really have to be on your toes.
In most construction zones, workers can be as close as two feet from active traffic, which is why it’s so important to pay attention. Distracted driving - that’s a challenge we our dealing with now. In my opinion, distracted driving is causing most of the problems we see now.
Cell phones and texting can be big distractions for drivers. With my experience out on the highway, I have seen many other distractions that are just as dangerous.
One day I was called out to work a five-car fender bender, which required me to close down a lane of K-96 during lunch hour, all due to a motorist not paying attention to his driving because he dropped his French fries on the floor of his car. He bent over to salvage his French fries he had dropped and took his eyes off the road and rear ended the car in front of him causing a chain reaction car crash pile up. That driver totaled his brand new sports car.
Another incident in my career, the one call you never want to receive, is the call from your employee stating that they were involved in an accident while mowing along the shoulder of the highway. When I arrived at the accident scene to take care of my employee, I found out the cause of the accident was due to the fact that the driver was looking in her rear-view mirror putting on make-up. She veered off the highway, striking the KDOT tractor mower.
Again, but this time on an Interstate highway, I worked an accident where a man was drinking his soda pop and the fizzing went up his nose and sneezing caused him to swerve and side swipe the car next to him and the crash into the attenuator’s crash barrels that were present on the highway.
Driver-related factors that affect work zone crashes include speeding, in-vehicle distractions and inattentive or rear-end collisions. Paying attention to traffic ahead and maintaining an adequate following distance are necessary for safe driving.
Work zones are dynamic places that can change from minute to minute. Being alert is critical. When motorists are alert and obey traffic devices, everyone’s safety is enhanced. The Kansas Department of Transportation has a responsibility to provide work zone traffic control and drivers have a responsibility to follow that traffic control and drive safely as they are passing through those work zones.
Work zone crashes are avoidable. If drivers were aware of how important it is to slow down in work zones and pay attention, hundreds of lives could be saved across the country every year.
I offer the following tips for driving safely in work zones:
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Check Kandrive.org or WichWay.com to find out if there are construction work zones along your path and allow extra time to navigate those areas.
PAY ATTENTION: Don’t drive distracted by texting, eating that Big-Mac or other activities that take your hands off the wheel. Look for reduced speed limits, narrow driving lanes and highway workers.
MERGE SAFELY: If the number of lanes is reduced, drivers should not speed to try and pass other vehicles as they merge in the work zone.
SLOW DOWN: If you’re speeding, you may encounter slowed or stopped traffic within seconds.
DON’T TAILGATE: Maintain a safe distance on all sides of your vehicle.
It’s everybody’s responsibility to keep work zones safe. Don’t be that driver.
Thank you!
Ted Coleman is a KDOT Highway Maintenance Supervisor in Wichita.