In an instant... Work zone accidents cause injuries, death

April 3, 2000 (Release 00-049)
News Contact: Kim Stich, (785) 296-3585

In an instant... Work zone accidents cause injuries, death

You can't let your guard down for even a second. The danger is always there. In just an instant, an accident can occur in a highway work zone causing property damage, injuries and sometimes death.

Kansas highway workers know this to be all too true.

"Last winter, we were clearing off bridges on I-470 and a truck come up on me going 70 mph," said Larry Rohr, KDOT Equipment Operator in Topeka. "At the last second he swerved into the other lane and just about hit another car. There's not much room for error."

Rohr has seen many close calls in his seven years at KDOT. He stressed that all motorists need to pay attention and watch out for highway workers.

"We're out there doing the best job we can," Rohr said. "A lot of people don't think much of it until you actually stand within 10 feet of a vehicle traveling 70 mph. You get a little different perspective about your job."

Rohr says most people are cautious when driving in work zones, but adds that "there seems to be a lot more people talking on cell phones or not paying attention and they don't even know they're in a work zone. Or some people will get mad when having to slow down. For a few seconds of inconvenience, it's not really worth getting upset."

Rohr told of a time when a bridge ramp had to be shut down because of barrier wall damage after a fatality wreck. While making the repairs, "a person barreled through the cones and came up onto the bridge on the curve," he said. "They couldn't see the workers until they were right there, and then they didn't seem to care. They not only placed their life in danger but ours too."

Sometimes a few orange cones are the only barrier between highway workers and high-speed vehicles. "We just want people to watch out for us while we're doing our job," Rohr said.