We’ve all been through a highway work zone. We know that there is an increased risk of a car crash due to changing conditions. But do we realize just how dangerous these stretches of highway can be?
It’s not just a danger to construction workers. The occupants of passenger vehicles are also at risk.
Over the past 10 years, work zone deaths have increased by 29%, according to the National Safety Council. Work zone accidents are defined as crashes that take place within the boundaries of a work zone, or while approaching or exiting a work zone, due to the behaviors, activities or controls related to traffic within the boundaries of a work zone.
The National Safety Council says that, in 2018 alone, 45,400 people were injured in work zone accidents nationwide and another 754 were killed. Of those, 130 were killed in California.
The majority of work zone fatalities involve the drivers of motor vehicles
On average, vehicles strike and kill 56 worker-pedestrians each year in work zones, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As shocking as that may be, that number pales in comparison to the number of vehicle occupants who are killed in work zones each year.
The large majority (63%) of those killed in work zones are the drivers of motor vehicles. This includes both vehicles that are involved in construction or maintenance activities and those driven through the work zone by civilians. The next largest group (19%) of fatalities involves passengers in motor vehicles. Pedestrians, which include highway workers but also other pedestrians, account for 16% of work zone deaths.
Tips for preventing work zone crashes
Avoiding an accident in a work zone can be a challenge due to limited maneuverability and changing conditions. Staying safe requires planning, attention, maintaining proper distance and moving early into lane shifts, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
This first tip could save you a lot of trouble: Plan your route. Today, many internet-based maps can tell you what your route holds in store, including construction projects. If possible, avoid work zones altogether using alternative routes.
Avoid all distractions. A work zone is not the place to be fiddling with your cellphone, eating, changing the radio station or updating your GPS. Even conversing with the passengers in your vehicle can be distracting, and you will need all your attention to keep up with the lane changes, reduced speeds and obstacles, including workers. Watch your speed and keep well back from the vehicle in front of you.
Move early into the open lane when dealing with lane closures. At the same time, pay attention to any vehicles that could be in your blind spot.