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What We Learn When We Lose. LAWSUITS. LAWSUITS. How Do You put a giraffe into a refrigerator?. Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close the door. This questions tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way. How Do You

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What We Learn When We Lose

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How Do You

put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

Open the refrigerator,

put in the giraffe,

and close the door.

  • This questions tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.

How Do You

put an elephant into a refrigerator?


Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door.

  • This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your previous actions.

The Lion King

is hosting an animal conference.

All the animals attend. . . except one.

Which animal does not attend?


The Elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator. You just put him in there.

  • This tests your memory.

There is a river you must cross

but it is used by crocodiles, and you do not have a boat.

How do you manage it?


You jump into the river and swim across. Have you not been listening? All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting.

  • This tests whether you listen, or whether you jump to assumptions.
K-74 in Atchison County
  • Late April around 9:30 p.m.
  • One vehicle accident
  • In the car is the driver, and five passengers, ages 2, 14, 15, 16, and 17.
  • The car fails to negotiate a curve and hits a tree.
  • The driver and 14 year old passenger are killed.
  • All other passengers are life-flighted from the scene.
  • KDOT is sued by the 2 year old, the 14 year old the 15 year old, the 16 year old, and the 17 year old.
  • No claim is made for the death of the driver.

Video logs show that the road was signed like this by at least 1997. A video log dated 1994 shows three object markers. There is no evidence that the curve ever had a large arrow or chevrons.


Lessons to be Learned

  • Drive the roads like you have never driven them before. How would this look to a person unfamiliar with the road traveling it at night?
  • If you change the traffic control, ask yourself, “How does this change affect other traffic control in the area?”
US-24 in Pottawatomie County
  • US-24 is four lane divided highway
  • All four lanes of US-24 just recently opened
  • The EB lanes of US-24 need some further work on the passing lane edge line.
  • EB passing lane is closed.
  • Plaintiff is a passenger traveling SB on a county road. Plaintiff’s vehicle is struck while crossing the EB lanes on US-24.
  • Accident occurs in September 98. Daytime. Bright and sunny.

Lessons to be Learned

  • Projects will encounter needs for traffic control that were not expected. Try to anticipate what situations are going to arise.
  • Know what different traffic control devices mean and use the correct ones.
  • If you don’t know how to handle a situation, call someone who does.
US-59 in Jefferson County
  • Late August, 1:00 p.m., bright and sunny day.
  • Project is crack repair preparing the surface for an overlay.
  • 2 lane roadway.
  • Flagman operation.
  • Stopped at the flagman is a white dodge carrying mom and 1 year old son.
  • Second vehicle in line is a red Ford carrying mom, dad, 2 year old son and 3 year old daughter.

Lessons to be Learned

  • More signs are not always best.
  • Especially when those signs are wrong.
  • Pay attention to the “little things” like flags.
  • Pay attention to your traffic control plans – everyday.
US-24 in Pottawatomie County
  • US-24 is under construction. The project is changing the road from two lane to four lane.
  • Accident occurred in early November, 1997.
  • Plaintiff is traveling SB on a rural road.
  • Semi is traveling EB on US-24.

Lessons to be Learned

  • Check your traffic control – everyday and every time you travel through a project.
  • Remember you may have traffic control in locations where no work is going on.
  • Know what the traffic control layout is suppose to be.
US-77 bypass around Arkansas City
  • October 31, November 1, and 2.
  • Number injured – 100’s
  • Number suing KDOT – 16 property owners
  • The claim is that the construction of the bypass resulted in flooding.
  • Flood was between the 75 and 100 year level.
  • All property owners, except one, had no protection prior to the construction of the bypass/levee.

Lessons to be Learned

  • Write what you mean. Whether it be in letters, minutes to meetings, diaries, etc.
  • Letters, minutes to meetings, diaries, etc. are not forms. What you write may have to be explained by you someday.
US-69 in Miami County
  • Man, his wife and adult daughter are traveling southbound when they strike a cow in the roadway.
  • The mother is killed. The daughter is injured to the point where working is difficult. The husband suffers minor injuries.
  • KDOT is sued because there is one broken fence post in the right of way fence.
  • The allegation is that the cow got onto the road through the broken fence post.
Fences by virtue of their legal and physical protection:

a. Control Access;

b. Provide Safety to the Traveling Public;

c. Prevent indiscriminate crossing of medians or ramps by vehicles or pedestrians; and

d. Prevent encroachments on the right of way.

Fences which have been damaged to the extent that their effectiveness is severely reduced should be repaired immediately. A temporary repair may be necessary until permanent repairs can be made.
  • State-owned fences should be inspected a minimum of once per year and repairs made where needed.

Lessons to be Learned

  • Read your policies.
  • If the policy says something that cannot be done or is not done – change the policy or start doing what the policy says.
  • Speak the truth. Say only what needs to be said.
language as rewritten after the lawsuit
Language as Rewritten After the Lawsuit
  • Fences are used to “delineate access control” for a highway by serving as a boundary marker. They are used in the same way that right-of-way markers or controlled access signs are used, with or without fence, to identify the access control line.
Fences which have been damaged, should be repaired in a reasonable time frame. A temporary repair may be necessary until permanent repairs can be made.
  • State-owned fences should be inspected periodically and repairs made where needed.


In order to insure citizens (and especially elderly citizens) a uniform and high quality roadway environment, states should establish a policy for installation of visual information devices.
Signs and road markings must be designed to accommodate drivers with the weakest eyes and the slowest reaction times.
Section 2A.19 – Standard

Ground-mounted sign supports shall be breakaway, yielding, or shielded with a longitudinal barrier or crash cushion if within the clear zone.

  • Section 2A.21– Standard

Sign posts, foundations, and mountings shall be so constructed as to hold signs in a proper and permanent position, and to resist swaying in the wind or displacement by vandalism.

Section 3A.02– Standard

Markings that must be visible at night shall be retroreflective unless ambient illumination ASSURES that the markings are adequately visible.

  • Recommended language.

Markings that should be visible at night shall be retroreflective unless ambient illumination provides reasonable visibility.

6E.01 – Guidance

Flaggers should be able to satisfactorily demonstrate the following abilities: Ability to move and maneuver quickly in order to avoid danger from errant vehicles.

Recommended language:

Ability to move and maneuver in a reasonably quick manner.

Figure VI-63 shows a short-term road closure caused by an unplanned incident such as a traffic accident that blocks the traveled way. . . . The local traffic engineering department will probably be needed to determine the detour route and install the signs.

Lessons to be Learned

  • When writing “standards” be objective.
  • Do NOT have contradictory statements in the same document (or even different documents.)
  • Remove the words “assure”, insure” and “ensure” from all manuals, policies, writings, documents, etc.

Q. And where was the location of the accident?

  • Approximately milepost 499.
  • And where is milepost 499?
  • A. Probably between milepost 498 and 500.
  • Did you blow your horn or anything?
  • After the accident.
  • Before the accident?
  • Sure, I played for ten years.
  • I even went to school for it.
  • How far apart were the vehicles
  • at the time of the collision?

Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you

  • check for a pulse?
  • No.
  • Did you check for blood pressure?
  • No.
  • Did you check for breathing?
  • No.
  • So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when
  • you began the autopsy?
  • No.
  • How can you be so sure, Doctor?

A. Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.

Q. But could the patient have still been alive nevertheless?

  • It is possible that he could have been alive and
  • practicing law somewhere.