Archive for Thursday, September 13, 2007

Work zone crash prevention requires our greater caution

September 13, 2007

Two men working in a construction zone on U.S. Highway 59 south of Lawrence were killed Tuesday when they were ran down by a pickup truck that ignored a work-zone stop sign.

The deaths of a Kansas Department of Transportation employee and a contractor brought to 13 the number of workers killed in KDOT highway work-zone incidents in the past 25 years and four since 2005.

That is only the tip of the iceberg. A study competed for KDOT in the last year revealed an astounding 15,434 work-zone crashes in the state from Jan. 1, 1992, to Dec. 31, 2004. Of those, 4,600 involved injuries or deaths.

What's puzzling is that the majority of the crashes occurred under similar conditions to Tuesday's incident. They happened during daylight hours with good weather conditions. The chief culprit was inattentive driving.

We are all guilty from time to time of driving with minds preoccupied with thoughts or, even worse, actively engaging in activities. Such distractions are never justified, but clearly the alarming statistics cited above should remind us all that the sight of large diamond-shaped work-zone signs means we should pay stricter attention, be prepared for the unexpected and to slow down to the suggested speed.

Although all the details of Tuesday's incident have yet to come to light, it appears it was not a routine case of inattentiveness. Still, the history of carnage suggests more needs to be done to protect those working to improve our roads and highways. Stricter enforcement of work zone speed limits would help -- the sight of a motorist being ticketed is a great deterrent.

But it is obvious the real responsibility belongs to us the motorist. We don't want or expect roads and highways be closed for routine maintenance. That means we have to have to be aware of those working to improve them.

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