By Pat Inman
On June 8, 1986, the KDOT District Three materials crews were doing some asphalt core drilling to determine asphalt thickness, asphalt content, aggregate gradations, etc. I was flagging traffic on the south end of the project located on U.S. 283 approximately 3 miles south of Norton.
The drilling location was in the northbound lane of the road requiring traffic to transition over into the southbound lane, then back after going around the drilling equipment. All traffic control was in place according to the current requirements, including signs, traffic cones, and vehicles with flashing lights.
As traffic approached from the south, I motioned the lead vehicle over into the southbound lane. The driver of the vehicle following behind failed to notice the lane change of the car in front of it and maintained its path in the northbound lane where I was flagging traffic.
A distraction or moment of inattention caused a catastrophic and life changing accident. Thankfully I wasn’t killed as a result and there were no other injuries to coworkers or damage to equipment. I suffered compound fractures to both legs, broken bones in my hand, a broken vertebra in my neck, and cuts and scrapes to my head and ear which required over 300 stitches and 5 reconstructive plastic surgeries, along with a serious concussion. I am very fortunate to have recovered with very little long term damage.
Safety cannot be “overdone.”
We used every traffic control device available to us, and all workers were veteran employees with over 15 years experience in work zone safety requirements. Even with all the safety measures in place, a moment of distraction or inattention can result in accidents. All workers need to be constantly aware of traffic and potential hazards. While driving, in a work zone, or anywhere, one needs to be acutely aware of everything going on around them.
Today there are even more distractions, cell phones, ipods, gps units, etc. to cause a lapse in attention that could be devastating, or fatal. When you operate any vehicle you are committed to be responsible for its safe operation, both morally and legally.
Engineering Technician Patrick Inman retired in 2005 after 34 years of service at KDOT