Numbers are more than just statistics

By Sue Reiss
         We all see the highway fatality statistics, and following a seven-year decline, they rose 5% in 2012, to 36,200 traffic fatalities, which included over 700 work zone deaths that year. Those numbers are more than just statistics. Each one of those numbers represents a person who left behind parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and friends who were devastated by their loss.
         Those victims will never walk their daughters down the aisle, or meet their grandchildren. The tragedy of these lost lives is unspeakable. Those that are lost in work zone accidents touch each of us personally because they were part of our industry and by extension, our lives. The deaths of those men, women and children break our hearts every time a work zone fatality becomes public, even if we didn’t know them personally. They were a part of our collective family, and each loss is heartbreaking.
         The ATSS Foundation is aligned with ATSSA in their Toward Zero Deaths mantra.  As such, our focus for 2014 and beyond is threefold.  Toward Zero Deaths, Toward Zero Scholarships, Toward Zero Names of the Foundation’s National Work Zone Memorial Wall.
         The American Traffic Safety Services Foundation helps the families of those lost by providing scholarships to the children and/or remaining spouses of those deceased, or even permanently disabled workers. This year, the Foundation Board elected to raise the amount of our scholarships so that their value is even more meaningful to their recipients. I feel blessed to have met a number of those children in person, and have spoken to even more of the recipients and applicants on the phone. In addition to the emotional loss of their loved ones, they are often left with a financial loss that potentially eliminates their hopes and dreams of a college degree. The scholarships that the Foundation provides these surviving children are often desperately needed in order for them to attend college. Without them, I have been told many times, college might have been out of their reach.
         The Memorial Wall’s names are those that have been lost “between the signs,” whether DOT personnel, workers, motorists or even pedestrians.  The Foundation struggles to find the names of those people, since there does not exist a source for that information, along with the names of their families, who need to give permission for their names to be added to the Memorial.   We are always looking for help from anyone that may have knowledge to share in regards to those names.
         For more information, please visit the ATSSA Foundation website at

Sue Reiss is the ATSSA Foundation Board President

Work Zone Awareness: A Partnership in Safety

By Jake Jackson
         I’ll never forget that day last spring. My crew and I were applying high friction surface coating to a bridge near El Dorado on the Turnpike. It was a pretty normal day and project. We’d set up the work zone shutting down the right-hand lane of northbound traffic. Things were going well and we were at the half-way point of the bridge.
        The next thing we knew a car rear-ended another car, careened out of the left-bound lane and entered our work zone. The crew and I fled the area and the car stopped just feet from where we’d been working. We were okay just terribly shaken up. (On bridges, there’s just nowhere to go!)
         It would have been nice to catch our breath, but the reality is we couldn’t. Traffic was now blocked in both lanes. We had to quickly take action as traffic would be backing up, greatly increasing the likelihood of yet another accident.
         We notified dispatch and called for a tow truck. Because traffic backed up behind the accident, these emergency helpers had to drive against traffic to get to us. We had patrol, not assigned to the Turnpike, assist as well. It was a mess to say the least. Traffic was backed up about 2 ½ miles in just the 10 minutes it took to clear a lane and get things moving again.
         So what do I want you to learn from this story? It’s that work zone safety is a partnership. We’ll set up work zones, but we need you – the traveling public – to work hard at keeping yourself safe. If you do this, you’ll keep us safe, too.
Here’s what we do to make work zones safe:
      1.    Activate the digital message signs along the turnpike
      2.    Close lanes for work, measuring and marking well in advance of the actual work zone
      3.    Set up width restrictions so wide loads are diverted and not allowed to travel in the work area
      4.    Wear reflective clothing
      5.    Keep the number of workers to a minimum

Here are some things we’d like you to remember when near or in a work zone:
      1.    Be prepared for merging or changing lanes
      2.    Watch for flaggers
      3.    Go slow; be prepared to stop
      4.    Maintain a safe following distance
      5.    Avoid distracted driving
          As far as my crew and I, we’re back at it – just extra cautious. We hope this spring and summer will be work-zone accident free and that you’ll be joining us to keep work zones safe for everyone.

Jake Jackson is an Equipment Foreman with the Kansas Turnpike Authority


Work Zone Safety: A Costly Mistake

By Carman Ange
         Just the night before, I had packed Curtis’ cooler with bottles of Gatorade because you need lots of fluids when working on the highway in the heat. And we talked about him going fishing soon with his brother who had just gotten back from Afghanistan.
         The next morning, imagine saying good bye to your son, not realizing that will be the last thing said. Imagine not being able to see your loved one, until funeral arrangements are made, and their body is prepped for viewing. Imagine the crew members that were there that day and had to go back work.
         Imagine on August 5, 2012, that was your son that went to work and didn’t get to come home. My family’s world was changed forever that day when we were notified that my son Curtis was struck by a car and killed while working in a Kansas work zone. Curtis was only 22 with his entire life ahead of him.
         As a mother, you ask yourself - what could I have done to protect him? Why did I let him leave the house? Did I tell him that I loved him? Why couldn't it have been me instead of him? I can't get past that horrific day. I’m constantly reliving that day over and over again in my mind. You can't sleep, you have nightmares of him in the casket because that’s the last time you seen him. The pain is so unbearable, you just hope it doesn’t happen to someone else. I strongly believe the law needs to be changed, because some people don’t care if it just says fines double in the work zone.
         Work zone safety involves all road users, including roadway workers, emergency responders, law enforcement, pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists. Remember as a driver “we” make the life-saving decision. Once “we” get behind that wheel, “we” are the ones ultimately responsible. The decisions “we” make not only affect us, but also affect the ones around us. Can “we” make a difference? Yes.
         Obey the posted speed and warning signs, don’t drive while under the influence, stay alert and pay attention, avoid distractions, prepare for sudden changes in traffic, expect delays and take an alternate route if available. By doing these things, you improve safety and reduce accidents - an accident possibly to you, your loved one, or other motorists who could be injured or killed.   
         National Work Zone Awareness Week is April 7 through April 11. I ask everyone for a moment of silence for the loved ones that lost their lives. Please give thanks to the emergency responders, law enforcement, motorist assists, highway construction crews, and many others who I might of have missed, they work in these dangerous conditions. Why? They’re there to “protect us.” 
          Don’t let this tragedy happen to your family, your loved ones, friends, and co-workers.

Carman Ange’s son, Curtis Harlan, was killed in a highway work zone