Personal Observations

My name is John Crawford and I am the Supervisor at the KDOT Goodland Subarea office.
Our maintenance work zones do not get as much publicity as a planned construction project. Our work zones are temporary and can be set up anywhere from two to eight hours. The maintenance work is usually to take care of a problem that is remedied with materials and equipment that can make the ride a little better or to extend the life cycle of the roadway.
Being temporary and subject to the availability of materials or equipment or weather, our work zones can be a surprise for the traveling public. The road doesn’t really matter. Whether it’s a secondary two-lane highway or a multi-lane interstate highway, the temporary maintenance work zones may require travelers to move or react to actions they witness once in the work zone.
Oftentimes once the traveling public recognizes a work zone, the attitude comes out. People make negative comments, say that we are wasting the taxpayers’ dollars and are just out there to make them late. Obviously that’s not the case - we are doing our jobs--to maintain and improve our highway system in Kansas. As a Subarea Supervisor, it is my job to make sure that all my crew members return home at the end of the day in the same or possibly better condition than they arrived to work in.
And that means being alert to the potential dangers posed by passing traffic. For example, on two separate occasions, while in work zones that were clearly marked with advance warning signs, arrow boards, truck mounted attenuator and delineated with cones for the taper and transition to the other lane, I witnessed a semi-tractor trailer rig and a pickup truck and trailer run into and over the cones used to delineate the work zone. This caused the cones to fly up and into the work zone very near where employees were working.
These cones and stabilization weights are roughly 10 pounds each. They could do serious damage to equipment and workers if they happen to be struck by these flying cones. I am not sure if it is the intent of the driver to try to hit us or just knock over our cones. Although I have not had an employee hit with these flying cones, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
This is not funny and it is a dangerous action in a very safety-sensitive situation. Although we do plan room for protection, these cones when struck at 65 to 70 miles per hour can fly far and fast. And if these devices are knocked over, it could cause an accident from the confusion caused by missing cones.
So please be patient, follow the directions of the work zone signs and please try not to hit or move the cones. I want to return to my family safe and sound just as much as you want to return to yours.

John Crawford is the Supervisor at the KDOT Goodland Subarea office.

Work zone safety tips

By Mark Engholm
As Kansans, we enjoy one of the best road systems in the United States. However, in order to maintain our excellent road system we must deal with the frustration of highway work zones. But for road workers, a work zone isn’t an annoyance--it’s dangerous. Construction workers regularly deal with traffic whizzing by a few feet from their “office,” and they rely on orange cones and speed limit signs to protect them. While drivers deal with detours and slower traffic, road workers are risking their lives on our highways.
Some key safety tips to remember in highway construction and maintenance zones:
Follow the signs. Following the directions posted on orange construction signs will keep workers--and you--safe. Even when work isn’t in progress, Kansas law requires that you obey all posted signs.
Don’t assume they see you! When repaving or repairing roads, a worker’s environment is dusty, loud, and very close to passing traffic. These unprotected workers are focused on their jobs, so it’s up to you to focus on safety: Never assume workers will step out of the way of your car.
Follow the lines. Work zones often have temporary lines on the road redirecting the flow of traffic. Look out for shifting or merging lanes, particularly if you drive this road often--you may be tempted to “autopilot” your way through.
Obey the work zone speed limit . Depending on sight distances and the type of work being done, the construction speed limit could be much lower than the normal highway limit. Don’t risk it—slow down!
No distractions! While driving through a work zone, you should limit distractions. Eating, talking on the phone, listening to music and drinking coffee can take valuable seconds off your response time.
The Kansas Highway Patrol partners with the Kansas Department of Transportation to provide Troopers to patrol highway work zones statewide. Our Troopers work diligently to enforce traffic laws in work zones and provide a safe environment for highway workers and drivers traveling on our highways.

Mark Engholm is a Technical Trooper for the Kansas Highway Patrol 

On work zone safety

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. She wrote this blog on Sept. 23, 2009, as part of the Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day blog series on traffic safety. With Shirley’s permission, we are re-running this blog today as it is a powerful reminder on the need for work zone safety. 

Thank you for not being the next statistic!

Ever wonder who “ 'Em” is in “Give 'Em A Brake”? They are members of the community, and may be sitting or standing right next to you. The person out there working in traffic could be someone you know.
Slow down in the “cone zone.” That is someone's office--and someone else is expecting them home safe.
The life you save really might be your own, as more than 85 percent of work zone accidents are the general motoring public.
Although these following rules sound overly-simple and might elicit a “Duh!” response from the average driver, I bet my bottom dollar if every motorist followed them to the letter, we wouldn't have to have a Work Zone Awareness Week.
Be alert. Minimize and eliminate distractions. Pay close attention. Expect the unexpected. Be very cautious. Don't change speed dramatically. Don't tailgate or lane change. Watch out for lane diversions and detours. Keep your cool and be patient. Leave room and leave yourself an out. And, by all means, manage your stress, and obey road crew flaggers.
The highway construction industry urges both workers and motorists to follow these basic steps, giving their full attention to the roadway, and recognize the orange signs along your drive that indicate work zones, to help save lives and prevent injuries in this critical area.
The most dangerous part of any roadway--for motorists and construction workers--is a construction work zone. Each day, hundreds of Kansas Department of Transportation employees, and contractors' project workers, perform their jobs in work zones all across Kansas. These workers put themselves in harm's way to improve travel for the rest of us. While we place signs and cones in the road, and wear vests so our workers are easy to see, these tools are no match for a 3,000-pound car.
While we can't bring back the lives lost in highway work zones, we can honor those people by doing our part to make sure it doesn't happen again.
If following simple rules isn't reason enough to driving safely, consider that fines are double in a work zone, and workers do not have to be present for you to receive a speeding ticket. Fines can range up to $1,200, and your auto insurance rates will rise accordingly.
Thank you again for not being the next statistic. Enjoy our good roads and have a great time once you get to where you are going.

Dan Ramlow is the executive vice president of the Kansas Contractors Association 

Sharing in the responsibility--Safety is priority #1

My name is Johnnie Lira and I am the KDOT Area Superintendent in Ulysses.
One of the most common incidents in a work zone in southwest Kansas is the rear-end collision. The most common replies from motorists involved in these incidents is, “I didn’t see the vehicle until it was too late,” or, “ I didn’t see any signs, what signs?” I would guess this is simply inattentiveness behind the wheel.
I personally remember a close call or two as a flagman. One in particular--it was a clear, bright sunny day and I was flagging a bridge due to some concrete repairs. A vehicle entered and proceeded through the work zone as it passed the second sign (“One Lane Ahead”).
I emphatically began to wave the flagman paddle, and there was still no sign of deceleration. As I made my move to the ditch, I heard the stretching sounds of braking hit the pavement. The passenger side of the bumper clipped the end of the flagman paddle as it came to rest beyond where I was standing.
I recall the vehicle backed up and asked if I was OK and the driver stated, “I didn’t see you.” I replied (as nicely as I could), “You didn’t see me?” and I advised him that I started waving the flagman paddle (some 10 feet in the air) when he was a quarter-mile away.
I then asked if he saw the traffic control signs and asked if he was able to see the bright orange vest that I was wearing. His reply was simply a smirk. Unfortunately this example of inattentiveness behind the wheel is not all that uncommon.
The success and responsibility of a safe work zone is two-fold. KDOT employees must properly set up all required traffic control needed throughout the work zone and be alert at all times while working. But the public needs to do their part when in work zones and follow that traffic control as well as pay attention, watch for workers, allow ample space between vehicles and expect delays.
There has been much progress over the years to make all Kansas work zones safer, but this can only be accomplished when we all share in the responsibility and make work zone safety priority number one.

Johnnie Lira is the KDOT Area Superintendent in Ulysses.

Go Orange for Work Zone Safety

By Deb Miller
Ask anyone who works on a highway crew about close calls and they’ll likely have a few stories to tell you.
In my years at KDOT I’ve heard plenty of those scary stories. And, sadly, I’ve also heard the stories that have tragic endings.
It’s painfully evident that many of the motorists who drive through work zones are oblivious to the risks their driving poses to those who are working just an arms-length away. And if those drivers aren’t thinking about the workers, they certainly aren’t thinking about all the people who depend on those workers to come home safe and sound at the end of the day.
To help raise awareness of the inherent risks highway workers face every day, KDOT has planned a number of activities as part of National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 4-8. We will have a media event at KDOT’s new area office in Topeka where I will emcee and speakers will include Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Ernest Garcia, Dustrol Inc. Vice President Brian Hansen and Shirley McDonald, mother of KDOT employee Scotty McDonald who was killed in a 2005 work zone crash. Throughout the week, blogs from contractor organizations, the KHP and KDOT’s own John Crawford in Goodland and Johnnie Lira in Ulysses will be posted here, so please check back each day.
For April 6, we have come up with a very bright way for people to show support for road workers: go orange. Search the corners of your closet and the bottoms of your clothes drawers for something orange to wear. You will be in good company. And if you are asked why you are risking your standing as a fashionista by wearing orange, please share that work zone safety isn’t just for workers--it’s for motorists, too. More than 85 percent of the time, motorists are the ones who are injured in work zone crashes due to inattention, following too closely, driving too fast or not yielding the right of way.
In addition to the above activities, please check the KDOT website to see photos of Kansans decked out in orange. For the past month KDOT has been collecting photos of people wearing orange. The photos will also be posted on KDOT’s Flickr account, In addition, we’ve produced a “Go Orange” video you can view on the agency’s YouTube channel at
While we intend to have some fun wearing orange and promoting Work Zone Awareness Week, this is serious stuff. We depend on highway workers--including law enforcement and all first responders--to keep our families safe and to keep our economy moving. These workers deserve our respect and our undivided attention every day of the year. So, please do what you can to promote work zone safety and go orange!

Deb Miller is the Kansas Secretary of Transportation.