The call a highway supervisor fears

My name is Troy Whitworth and I have spent the past 29 years working for KDOT in some capacity; whether it was as a front line worker, Supervisor or Manager. I spent the majority of my early career based in the Kansas City area working on multi-lane highways with high traffic counts.

Troy Whitworth
As a Supervisor and Manager, the worst news you can receive is the call saying one of your people has been hurt while working on the road. I received one of those calls one night - an employee of mine had been struck by a vehicle while he was providing traffic control for an accident scene.
Fearing the worst; I asked if he was ok.  I was told he was in the emergency room being checked out by a doctor and was unaware of the extent of his injuries.  I made my way to the hospital wondering what had happened and hoping that he would be alright. When I got to his room in the ER; I found him in surprisingly good spirits but a bit sore from where the car hit him and from where he hit the ground.
I asked him what had happened. He told me he had closed down a ramp along the interstate for the traffic accident he got called out for. He said he saw headlights moving toward the ramp. The lights just kept coming at him and at the reflectorized cones delineating the closure. Before he knew it the car was almost on top of him; he jumped out of the way. The car struck his legs and spun him around knocking him to the edge of the roadway and out of the path of the vehicle.  The car continued up the ramp almost striking a police officer as it sped by.
Seeing what had just happened; the police leapt into action. After a frantic car chase, the police were able to get the vehicle stopped before someone else was hurt. We later found out the driver had been drinking and was impaired enough he didn’t know he had hit someone. 
In this instance we were very fortunate that the injuries to my employee weren’t life threatening. It could have been much more tragic and has been in other work zone crashes.  
Our field maintenance and construction workers have a difficult and sometimes dangerous job to do. They do amazing work making the roads safer for the traveling public. Remember to be considerate as you drive the roadway. When you see workers on the roadway, give them room to do their job.

Troy Whitworth is the Assistant Director of Operations at KDOT.

Nothing surprises me anymore

When you’re out on the roadway for a living, you hear, see and sometimes even experience scary moments. 
My name is Kenny Olson and I’m a Roadway Striping Foreman. I’ve been with KTA for 12 years and I have had more close calls on the roadway than many would think. Just last summer, I had vehicles hit at two different times while painting roadway lines.
Kenny Olson
One of these was in Wichita on the entrance ramp from the K-96 plaza. We were painting the white line on the right side, early in the morning when a driver came down the entry ramp way too fast.
Because of her speed, she wasn’t able to move out the way in time and hit the corner of our attenuator (the crash cushion hooked at the back of a truck) and then bounced and hit the guardrail. She was lucky she didn’t hit the truck again after that, but rather carried all the way through the right of way.
The other happened up near Lecompton where the road goes from three lanes to two. We were on the right with the striper when, for a reason I still don’t know today, a semi-truck locks up his brakes while in the left lane. His cab cut between the attenuator truck and the truck ahead of it, and jack-knifed.
The trailer whipped so fast that it hit the attenuator sideways and ended up back in the roadway, blocking traffic. The driver just backed up and drove away! Luckily a trooper caught up to him at a service area soon after.
These are just my two most recent experiences, but there’s been so many more. From a vehicle not paying attention and actually driving between the barrier wall and our striping machine to another driver purposely driving into the grass and back up onto the road to avoid driving through the work zone. Nothing surprises me anymore, and that’s the sad reality.
We can take as many safety precautions as necessary, making changes to safety procedures, but ultimately, drivers need to pay attention. People are in such a hurry, on their phones, or even having a dog on their lap licking their face (yes, that was a real thing I saw once on the road). Leave sooner. Watch the roadway signs. Pay attention.

Sometimes other drivers put us in bad situations

Trooper Ben Gardner
My name is Ben Gardner and for 18 years, I've been a state trooper for the Kansas Highway Patrol.  During my time, I've responded to numerous crashes involving damage, injuries, or death. 
Many of these crashes blur together and get forgotten in my mind. Some will stay with me until the day I no longer wear this uniform and beyond. 
It's easy to bet that most officers remember the first crash they ever responded to while on duty - this is true for me as well. 
The first crash I responded to involved a KDOT grader, which was driving east on U. S. 56, and a teen driver, who was driving fast and failed to recognize the slower, large equipment ahead.  The teen driver collided with the back of the road grader, and his pickup truck rolled multiple times.  Luckily he had his seat belt on. A medical helicopter landed on the scene and transported him to Wichita for treatment. 
The KDOT employee was very shook up.  He was questioning if he did anything wrong, and what could have been done to prevent the crash?  Simply put, the KDOT employee did not do anything wrong.  
This crash, the first one I ever investigated in a new career with the Kansas Highway Patrol, taught me several things that I still believe today. 
1) We might be the best drivers out there, doing nothing wrong, but sometimes other drivers put us in bad situations. This is why we must always wear our seat belts…to prepare for that unwanted, unexpected, not-your-fault situation, not knowing when it's going to play out.
2) When we drive, we must ensure that driving is the primary task at hand, limiting distractions that might take us away from the primary task. Eating, cellphones, talking with others, listening to the radio all move us further away from the focus needed when driving.
This crash occurred 18 years ago, and the lessons learned then are still true today.