As a KDOT employee
with 30-plus years I have witnessed many incidents that could have had
disastrous consequences for both the motorist involved and the workers in the
One of those that
really stuck in my mind happened in the first summer of my career. Our crew had
set up a work zone to do some patching in the southbound lane on a two-lane
highway with paved shoulders. At this time, we were on 10 hour days so by 8
a.m., signs were set at proper spacing and cones for the flagman stations
I was assigned to the
south end station and as work started, we (flagmen) began alternating our
traffic through the work zone. Shortly after this I observed a single car
coming up to the Road Work Ahead sign. I had my flagging paddle turned to stop
and left hand raised as required. As the car continues towards me I can hear
the sound of the tires on the pavement and the engine. There was no noticeable
change in sound as would be associated with a vehicle slowing down. I was
taught by senior employees that listening for these is a good way to tell if
the vehicle is slowing down.
Still heading toward
me and now approaching the Flagman Ahead sign, speed still unchanged, I can see
the sun visor is down and the driver is glancing back and forth between the
road and the visor mirror. I began backing away toward the shoulder as they
quickly approached. When the vehicle passed me I screamed “HEY!” as loud as I
could and the driver slammed on the brakes and came to a stop.
As I walked up to the
vehicle, I observed a young lady of high school age with a bag of makeup
sitting on her lap. She was visibly shaken and apologized. She stated she had
not noticed the signs and admitted being distracted by trying to finish her
makeup because she was running late. I said to her it is better to be late than
not get there at all and sent her on.
In so many ways this
could have ended tragically. If we would have been working in the other lane or
there had been traffic going through the work zone, injuries and possible
fatalities could have occurred. And now with all of today’s technology, there
are even more ways for drivers to be distracted.
Most of us have
family we wish to return home to at the end of each day. Waiting to make that
call, send that text or even putting on makeup until it can be safely done will
help you make it to your original destination and not your final destination.
May your travels be safe and pleasant.
Galen Ludlow is KDOT Area Superintendent in Dodge City