by Shirley McDonald
Why work zone safety is important is the topic of this discussion. I am sure that everyone who responds will have a different perspective and there will be some common themes. Most obviously, work zone safety improves the chances that workers and travelers through will be uninjured. People, vehicles, and equipment will remain intact. The work will proceed without delay. Money will be saved. Future travel through the work zone will benefit from the work that has been done. Relationships will survive. Dreams will be fulfilled.
Our 24-year-old son, a KDOT employee, was just a step away from safety when he was killed in a work zone on a busy highway. Several people stated that he and his co-worker had done everything correctly and that if he had just been a step or two in a different direction the car that struck and killed him would have missed him and he would have been safe and alive.
What happened? Was the driver impaired in some way? Did they suffer a medical crisis? Were they reaching for a cell phone or makeup or sunglasses or something? Had they been drinking or using drugs? Were they unable to see our son? Did their vehicle malfunction? Were they driving at an excessive speed and lost control? Did they steer to the right to avoid a head-on collision? The questions torture one’s mind.
Highway workers deserve that we find the best answers possible to keep them safe. Theirs is a dangerous job to keep those of us who travel the highways safe. The worker must be constantly alert to and focused on their job while at the same time constantly aware of and responsive to what is going on around them. They must always be prepared for the unexpected. The equipment they work with is potentially dangerous and must be used in areas that are often less than desirable. Weather, time of day, and volume and speed of traffic can increase the danger. Add in driver behaviors that distract them and the danger is increased.
Work zone safety depends on each of us, worker or traveler through, to be alert, responsible, and focused on our respective work—driving, cycling, walking, road work, rescue work etc. Everyone wants to get home or to their destination safely.
Shirley McDonald is the mother of KDOT employee Scotty McDonald who was killed in a work zone crash in 2005.