KDOT: Close calls in highway work zones occur too often

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) In recognition of National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week April 20-24, the Kansas Department of Transportation issues a reminder to be extra cautious when driving through a work zone.

Last year in Kansas, KDOT reports 1,420 work-zone crashes. Those included 437 injuries and seven deaths.

As part of National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, KDOT says, "a few locations around the state will be lit in orange to highway work zone safety, such as the Amelia Earhart Memorial bridge in Atchison."

As highway construction projects continue statewide KDOT says, "unfortunately, there are oftentimes close calls in work zones."

KDOT Equipment Operator Specialist Kent Portenier, from the department's Phillipsburg office, is among those with a story to tell after a close call in a Kansas highway work zone.

Portenier says a vehicle traveling through the work zone did not see him.

“I took off towards the ditch just as the driver hit the corner of the stopped pickup,” Portenier said. “The driver also swerved into the ditch and fortunately missed hitting me as I was running to safety.”

Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA) Structures Worker Caleb Parvo, from the KTA Wichita office, recalls being in a dump truck when he head a close call with a semi traveling in the wrong lane of a work zone.

“There was no way the driver could stop in time, and he tried to – unsuccessfully - squeeze between me and the barrier wall to avoid a collision,” Provo said. “Ultimately, the semi driver ended up crashing into the back end of my attenuator.”

KDOT says Portenier, Provo and others are sharing their stories this week as part of a blog series to help illustrate the importance of work-zone safety.

You can read those blogs on the state's transportation website.

“Close calls are all too common for highway workers, law enforcement and emergency responders who are serving the public,” says KDOT State Transportation Engineer Burt Morey. “It’s imperative that all drivers make paying attention and focusing on the road their main priorities every time they get in a vehicle.”

You can learn more about work-zone safety on KDOT's website.