Work Zone Safety - A Mom's Worst Nightmare

By Shirley McDonald
Promoting work zone safety is a very personal issue for me. Whenever I pass a work zone, I am immediately reminded of the day my son, Scott McDonald, was killed while working.
What bizarre circumstances came together at the exact seconds that the driver left the road and struck him, tossing him into the air and eventually ending his life a short time later due to a massive head injury? Did the whole accident last long enough that he was aware and scared for his life? Was he in horrible pain those last minutes of his life? Was he aware that others were with him within seconds struggling to save him? Did he know that he was not alone? Did he know how much we loved him?
Last weekend I traveled on local, state, and interstate highways where I became convinced that construction zone work is one of the most dangerous occupations that exist. I drove through the areas on a hot summer day with Kansas dust blowing, cars speeding by with little, if any, awareness of, let alone attention to, work zone speed limits or hazards. I saw drivers smoking, eating, talking on their cell phones, reading maps, disciplining children, just to note a few examples of less-than-attentive driving.
Occasionally my van rocked from the speed of drivers passing by and the force of the wind. The distance separating the work zone and workers from traffic sometimes looked like only inches, especially when concrete barrier blocks were set up or the area being constructed was small, like a two-way road with one lane each way, or an intersection in a high-traffic area. The workers concentrated on their work and seemed to be looking out for each other.
I thought about the workers out in those elements and how the weather must be affecting them and their ability to stay focused. I also wondered how they deal with the potential dangers without becoming too fearful to continue to do their jobs.
How can the workers protect themselves from the dangers all around? How can we who enter the work zones promote their safety? How can we promote the knowledge that those who work in a work zone are loved and valued individuals with someone waiting for them to come home?

Shirley McDonald is the mother of KDOT employee Scotty McDonald, who was killed in a work zone crash in 2005.

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