MoDOT, KDOT urge distraction-free driving during ‘National Work Zone Awareness Week’

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- "Give 'em a brake!"

You'll hear that slogan a lot from MoDOT and KDOT, as National Work Zone Awareness Week begins. It's a period when drivers are encouraged to take extra notice when road workers are present.

It's one of the most dangerous jobs in the metro. Sixty-two-year old MoDOT worker Jerome Burgett found that out first-hand last October 6 while working on a stretch of Interstate 49 near Grandview.

The TMA -- truck-mounted attenuator -- and the truck he was sitting inside were hit from behind by a distracted driver. The impact of the accident flattened the TMA and sent Burgett's truck flying around 80 feet forward and landed Burgett in the hospital.

"I thank God every day that it could have gone a different way," Burgett said.

Burgett needed three months of physical therapy before he could return to a job he's held for over 10 years.

"You can have the seat belt on you, and you're still going to be a bobblehead," Burgett said. "(Your head) still going to roll around."

Burgett says the injury is one thing -- but being hit by a driver who wasn't paying attention made him angry.

"I've seen them read the newspaper. I've seen them text while they're driving. The only thing you can do is run," Burgett said.

"You can't say, 'I'm sorry' and it will bring (a worker's) life back," Burgett said.

MoDOT officials say that crash isn't an isolated incident. MoDOT Spokesperson Markl Johnson says his agency is faced with as many as four incidents per month involving a highway worker hit by a driver, many of whom were distracted behind the wheel.

"That's what's going to happen," Johnson said. "We're going to see these accidents. We're not going to see them level off until people pay attention on the roadway."

Burgett and Johnson agree that distracted drivers are the most dangerous threat to road workers as they're performing their duties on the interstate. MoDOT officials say they're doing everything they can to keep their workers safe. The rest has to come from the public.

Our efforts to find out what happened to the driver who hit burgett's truck came up blank.

MoDOT is holding special festivities for National Work Zone Awareness Week. You'll find special displays at the agency's headquarters off Colbern Road in Lee's Summit. KDOT plans to illuminate the 87th Street bridges in orange this week, in observance of Work Zone Awareness Week.

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