MoDOT crews working to keep debris off roads and drivers safe this holiday season

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- Torrey Canady spends each day at work driving up and down the highway searching for drivers in distress.

He does this behind the wheel of the JAWS truck, a specially designed pickup truck that removes debris from the roadways. It is also Canady's office.

"I get called on various interstates because I have to clear debris from the lanes. This truck is normally being used throughout the day all day. Tires, matters, large debris of trees, tire tread -- we've moved a lot of things with this plow," he said.

KC Scout Project Manager Mark Sommerhauser said preventing secondary crashes is one of the primary goals for Torrey and others on the Emergency Response Team.

"There's always that inattentive or possibly another driver that hits an icy patch down the road and causes a second accident. Unfortunately, those tend to be a higher speed and can be more dangerous than the first incident," Sommerhauser said.

Three MoDOT workers have been killed while working on the side of the road in the past 10 years. Even more workers, first-responders and motorists have been injured.

"It's scary. Just working on the side of the highway, you can stand there and someone goes by, and it rattles your whole vehicle." Sommerhauser said, "We`re proud of those emergency responders. They are going and putting themselves in risk to go out and help people."

MoDot designated the week before Thanksgiving as Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week to remind drivers to slow down and move over when they see someone on the side of the road.

"To have someone behind you with flashing lights, a big arrow panel, something that really gets the attention of the traveling public makes a big difference. We staff this center 365 days a year, those emergency responders are out there 365 days a year. They'll be out there in the worst of the weather conditions, the holidays, not just the day before. They'll be out there working on the holidays, spending their time not with family but out there to help people," Sommerhauser said.

It's help Canady said is worth the risk.

"It makes me feel like I'm doing something positive assisting and working with the public. They really enjoy us assisting them out on the highway," he said.