Thursday, April 23, 2020

Please pay attention behind the wheel

Kent Portenier, left, with his family.
My name is Kent Portenier and I am the Equipment Operator Specialist on the Phillipsburg Subarea crew. I have worked for KDOT for nearly 30 years and have seen all kinds of things happen on the road.
One incident that really sticks out is from about 10 years ago. Our crew was laying an overlay patch on U.S. 36 west of Phillipsburg and it was the first time we were using a new traffic control setup with a 21-cone lead-in and 6-cone taper, along with our required signage. 
I was flagging that day. About an hour into the project, I had a small pickup stopped and waiting to proceed through the work zone. I could hear another vehicle approaching, so I stepped to the center line so it could see me and the stop paddle I was holding.
As the vehicle approached the lead-in cones, I could tell that the driver was not slowing down. I started waving my sign to get the driver’s attention, but it wasn’t working. I knew then that it was not going to get stopped and was going to hit the waiting pickup in the queue. 
I took off towards the ditch just as the driver hit the corner of the stopped pickup. The driver also swerved into the ditch and fortunately missed hitting me as I was running to safety. The vehicle continued on another hundred yards are so before finally coming to a stop.
The driver said he didn’t see any of the six warning signs or 21 lead-in cones. He had to have been distracted by something to have missed all of that. Thankfully no one was hurt, but it could have been a lot worse if things would have been off by a few seconds or inches.
We never know what the traveling public is going to do when we are out working, so we have to always be as prepared as possible. New technology, such as portable rumble strips, have helped to improve safety for us, but we still need drivers to do their part and pay attention behind the wheel.


  1. Wait, the driver missed six warning signs and 21 lead-in cones? Oh my gosh.

  2. Kent, thank you for sharing your experience. Your description put me right there on the road with you. Your account should make every driver think about the importance of staying alert. Every second of attention counts.

  3. That is scary to think there were all those signs and cones and they didn't see them. So glad you are ok. Thank you for your effort to maintain our highways.

  4. It's hard to imagine that the driver did not see any of the cones or warning signs! All the more reason people need to pay attention and just drive. Glad you are ok and were able to share your story. Thank you for all you and your crews do!