Final Take:

A district of the Missouri Department of Transportation is using the popularity of TV reality series “Survivor” to teach high school juniors and seniors about safe driving in work zones.

With the show’s theme music playing in the background, students stand on a giant canvas highway and answer safety questions posed by road construction and maintenance workers. If they get the answers wrong, instead of swinging from ropes or swimming in alligator infested swamps, the tribal challenges include setting up lane closures, hooking up a NASCAR seatbelt and throwing litter into a giant trash can.

More than 500 students at 18 schools have attended the Missouri DOT’s Northeast District’s “Highway Survivor” program, which began in April 2004. The game recently won a 2005 Roadway Work Zone Safety Awareness Award from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Marisa Brown, community relations manager for the district, says the program is a hit with young drivers. “Interestingly, the one thing they would like is harder questions,” she says.

But convincing construction workers who feel at home pouring asphalt and operating heavy equipment to stand on a big piece of cloth gym floor and play a TV-show-style game with teenagers was another matter. “This is not really their cup of tea,” Brown says.

After participating, however, the workers are hooked. “They say, ‘Call us again. This is so valuable,'” Brown says.

This past summer, a construction company rebuilding an intersection erected signs that, like thousands of others in Alabama, display road numbers inside an outline of the state. The only problem: the signs were placed at the corner of routes 10 and 141 in Easthampton, Massachusetts, more than 1,000 miles away from the Heart of Dixie.

A. Pereira Construction of Ludlow, Massachusetts, was responsible for ordering the signs. Roger Remy, the contractor’s estimator, admitted to Boston Globe reporters he didn’t know what the background of the signs was supposed to depict, but didn’t question it because the numbers were right.

A woman who answered the construction company’s phone refused to discuss the error. “It was a simple mistake and it’s fixed,” she said.

A Massachusetts Highway Department worker brought the signs to the attention of Joe Pipczynski, public works superintendent for Easthampton.

Pipczynski told reporters that after talking with both city and consulting engineers, he thinks the contractor simply opened the federal manual that guides what state highway signs should look like and sent a page with the example of a state road sign to the sign maker. The manual shows a road sign for Route 21 in Alabama.

“He doesn’t deserve to just walk in there and take off with the money that the rest of us have to work for.”
– Construction worker Kirk Pfaff, telling local NBC station 7/39 why he tackled a man robbing a Bank of America branch in Bonita, California, and held him down until police arrived.

“The work is good.”
– Ruben Cazares, one of many illegal immigrants doing hurricane cleanup work in New Orleans, telling the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about a job that pays him $10 an hour while Americans doing the same work earn $15 to $17 an hour. In some areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, the federal government has stopped enforcing the law that requires employers to hire only people with proper documents.

“I didn’t need any coffee after that.”
– Angela West, a customer inside restaurant Panera Bread in Carrolwood, Florida, describing to the St. Petersburg Times what happened when a construction crane tipped over, ripping a hole in the restaurant’s roof.

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