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.