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, http://www.flickr.com/photos/kansastransportation. In addition, we’ve produced a “Go Orange” video you can view on the agency’s YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/kansastransportation.
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.