Too many close calls

By Shad Lohman
      I work for the Kansas Department of Transportation. I have worked in the construction department for almost 30 years and almost everything that we do is behind that thin orange line.
      Work zone safety has to be the priority every day you come to work inside that construction zone.  If you do not make it a priority, bad things happen. There are many examples, and here are a few that have happened in our work group:

uAn Interstate reconstruction project had started on I-70 with traffic placed in a head to head pattern. A late snow storm occurred. An accident happened and air ambulance was needed. A KDOT employee risked their own life to get out in the snow and slow traffic down so it didn’t become a multi-vehicle pileup. A vehicle went into a spin and almost got him. Had he not kept his awareness up, a bad thing could have happened.

uAnother I-70 project had winter work of pre-splitting back slopes. Traffic was merged into the passing lane.  A driver drove through the traffic cones and past some equipment before colliding with a flatbed truck – air ambulance was required.  This type of work zone is common and one could become relaxed, but this work group had remained aware and got each other out of the way.

uA group of teenagers were joy riding in a closed work zone.  Luckily there were no workers present, but the teenagers found themselves in an excavation for a culvert.  They received injuries – not life threatening.

uAgain on I-70, a vehicle/trailer combo missed the median cross over and drove through the traffic cones and collided into the concrete safety barrier. Other vehicles followed. This caused a multi-car accident with fatalities. A KDOT employee arrived on the scene just as it happened because they were planning on going to work that morning in this exact location. The employee helped out as best he could. The memories of that morning convinced him to seek another job.

uA driver decided to do a U-turn on I-70 in a construction zone that was carrying head-to-head traffic. The driver did not complete the u-turn before the collision. The driver of the turning vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene. The other vehicle’s driver sustained significant injuries. That other driver could have easily been anyone of us. Why did the driver decide to ignore the work zone and all its warnings?

uI was on an I-70 median cross-over and became engrossed in thoughts of the project.  I was walking back to my vehicle and heard a loud horn that stopped me in my tracks. A semi-tractor/trailer’s rear view mirror came within inches of my face. After a long while, I was able to get back to my vehicle where I remained for almost an hour before regaining composure. Had that driver not honked/swerved, I would not be here writing this.

This is just a small sampling of what our work group goes through each and every day. The public’s awareness and the worker’s awareness are the reasons we go home each evening.

Shad Lohman is the District Two Construction and Materials Engineer in Salina.



  1. It's too bad road workers can't count on drivers to be responsible when passing through work zones. As a result, the workers have to keep one eye on the job at hand and another on traffic. We can't prosper as a state and nation without the work of highway crews, so that requires that drivers be respectful of the men and women working on the road. Thanks for reminding us, Shad.

  2. Anonymous4/11/2016

    That's so scary that you've had to deal with so many life threatening situations while trying to do your job. Everyone who works along the highways deserves our respect and attention.

  3. The national theme for this year’s Work Zone Awareness Week is “Don’t Be That Driver” which is very appropriate. I would venture to say that most if not all of the incidents that Shad noted probably involved some form of distraction like texting, eating, changing channels on the radio which is compounded by extremely poor decision making in some cases. When a changed roadway condition such as a work zone is added to these behaviors, consequences can be disastrous. So DON’T BE THAT DRIVER! Work on safety. Get home safely. Every Day.