By Jonathan McClungNot many days go by that we don’t pass a highway maintenance vehicle on the side of the road where people are working. But yet many drivers don’t give enough attention to make it a priority to give the courtesy of slowing down and moving over. Recently I had an encounter of what can happen in such an instance.
Wednesday, July 10, started out like any normal day for me. I arrived at work that morning ready for another day of the usual summer activities at KDOT. After instruction on where I was to mow, I prepared my tractor and mowing deck for the day ahead of me. All fueled up, greased and ready to go, I headed out to the location I was to start. When I arrived, I went ahead and started mowing the median just east of mile marker 19 on I-70 headed east. About four miles into my day of mowing, it happened.
A large bang and the windows of my tractor were coming in on me. When the glass stopped flying, I looked back to see my mowing deck was detached and setting on the ground 10 yards behind my tractor. I then looked forward and as the dust settled, there in front of me was a SUV lying upside down on its roof. It wasn’t until this point that I realized that I had been hit by a vehicle traveling highway speeds. It happened so fast.
The two passengers in the SUV were airlifted to Denver, Colorado, for treatment from injuries and I received five stiches for a cut to the back of my arm. But it could have been worse. Looking at the tractor the next day, I realize that a few inches could have created a different outcome. Talking to the State Troopers afterward, we came to the conclusion that the seat belts saved all three of our lives. The SUV’s passengers and I were restrained into our vehicles, keeping us from being ejected.
I don’t know if I will ever know the reason that vehicle left the roadway that day, but I will never forget it. If I can get one person that reads this to think twice about slowing down and moving over for highway maintenance vehicles, emergency vehicles, or even just vehicles parked on the side of the road, then this is worth writing because the life you could save may be your own.
Jonathan McClung is an Equipment Operator for the Kansas Department of Transportation in Goodland