Over the last year, I have worked two different work zones within Shawnee County as part of the Extra Enforcement Program, a joint effort between the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Kansas Highway Patrol. During my time in these zones, I have noticed that highway workers have to perform their jobs just a few feet from traffic. Obviously work zones utilize traffic cones, proper signage, and barriers, but in large part their safety is heavily dependent on the motoring publics’ safe driving. When unsafe driving habits are seen in these work zones, oftentimes law enforcement is asked to assist.
During this past year, the first work zone I worked was on U.S. 24 Highway at Topeka Boulevard. Workers were replacing the bridge over Topeka Boulevard. This work zone had a 45 mph speed limit that was reduced to 30 mph as you got farther into the work area. While patrolling this work zone, I noticed that I dealt with a large amount of speed related violations. I would consistently see vehicles driving at 15-20 miles per hour over the posted reduced speed limit and some as high as 25 miles per hour over.
Another common violation that I would see was driver’s driving through or around barriers. These barriers are placed to provide “protection” in a work zone. Not only are these barriers used to prevent injuries to the workers, but also to drivers. You can only imagine what kind of issues could have arisen if a section of this bridge was missing and someone drove off of it. Luckily, throughout this entire project we never had any major accidents. I think this can be attributed to proper work zone signage, highway workers awareness, and law enforcement presence.
The second work zone I worked was on U.S. 24 Highway and Menoken Road. This work zone has a reduced speed limit of 50 mph but I still saw the same traffic violations as before. This project had gone along pretty well with no major accidents or issues until January. On January 23, one of our troopers was struck while conducting enforcement in this work zone. These types of crashes and others like it, serve as vivid reminders of the dangers of working within a construction zone.
When traveling through a work zone the only “protection” that the workers and sometimes law enforcement have is traffic cones. This “protection” does not stop a vehicle from going through them and hitting a worker. So as you travel through the many work zones throughout the state in the coming months, please afford these workers their “protection.” Drive with due diligence and obey all posted reduced speed limits and traffic control signs.
Adam Winters is a Technical Trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol