In my 25 years with the Kansas Turnpike Authority, I’ve seen several alarming situations in construction zones and I’ve had about five near-death experiences. One of those incidents happened just eight months ago, and not just to me, but also to nine other employees.
It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon on the 21st of August last year. We were laying new pavement on the roadway near East Wichita. I was checking the output of the asphalt mixture like usual when our flagger down the road starts yelling at us to move and get out of the way. It was at that point that a driver swerved into his direction. He was fortunate enough to make it into the ditch in time.
Your first instinct is to get to safety, and almost all of us were able to. However, the driver of the paver couldn’t get out and in the ditch in time. The driver quickly traveled through the freshly laid mix and headed straight toward the paver. Luckily, the driver swerved back into the lane right before hitting it. Things would have been so much worse if that had not happened.
It was the middle of the afternoon, but we suspect the driver was impaired, though the driver was never caught. It goes to show that distracted and impaired driving doesn’t happen during a certain time of the day or night, but rather can happen at any moment.
In fact, on a different day during that same paving project, KTA's communications team was filming and observed 25 distracted drivers in one hour’s time - from texting to reading a newspaper, even a dog on a driver’s lap.
I implore you - pay attention while you are driving, particularly in work zones. Follow the decreased speed limit, and put down that phone.
These employees are working to provide a better road for you and they deserve the respect of attentive drivers. They have families they want to get home to also.
Mark Roberts is an Engineering Technician in Wichita with the Kansas Turnpike Authority