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.