By Jake JacksonI’ll never forget that day last spring. My crew and I were applying high friction surface coating to a bridge near El Dorado on the Turnpike. It was a pretty normal day and project. We’d set up the work zone shutting down the right-hand lane of northbound traffic. Things were going well and we were at the half-way point of the bridge.
The next thing we knew a car rear-ended another car, careened out of the left-bound lane and entered our work zone. The crew and I fled the area and the car stopped just feet from where we’d been working. We were okay just terribly shaken up. (On bridges, there’s just nowhere to go!)
It would have been nice to catch our breath, but the reality is we couldn’t. Traffic was now blocked in both lanes. We had to quickly take action as traffic would be backing up, greatly increasing the likelihood of yet another accident.
We notified dispatch and called for a tow truck. Because traffic backed up behind the accident, these emergency helpers had to drive against traffic to get to us. We had patrol, not assigned to the Turnpike, assist as well. It was a mess to say the least. Traffic was backed up about 2 ½ miles in just the 10 minutes it took to clear a lane and get things moving again.
So what do I want you to learn from this story? It’s that work zone safety is a partnership. We’ll set up work zones, but we need you – the traveling public – to work hard at keeping yourself safe. If you do this, you’ll keep us safe, too.
Here’s what we do to make work zones safe:
1. Activate the digital message signs along the turnpike
2. Close lanes for work, measuring and marking well in advance of the actual work zone
3. Set up width restrictions so wide loads are diverted and not allowed to travel in the work area
4. Wear reflective clothing
5. Keep the number of workers to a minimum
Here are some things we’d like you to remember when near or in a work zone:1. Be prepared for merging or changing lanes
2. Watch for flaggers
3. Go slow; be prepared to stop
4. Maintain a safe following distance
5. Avoid distracted driving
As far as my crew and I, we’re back at it – just extra cautious. We hope this spring and summer will be work-zone accident free and that you’ll be joining us to keep work zones safe for everyone.
Jake Jackson is an Equipment Foreman with the Kansas Turnpike Authority