According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), work zone fatalities are on the rise. Most recently, this increase is due in part to more reckless driving incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the lockdown, fatal work zone accidents increased 11 percent from 2018 to 2019, while the number of crashes outside of construction zones decreased two percent. Rear-end collisions are the most common, involving workers, motorists and maintenance vehicles.
Between 2019 and 2020, the total number of fatal crashes in work zones increased by 1.4 percent. Accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists also increased 21 percent in 2020.
Speeding through construction zones, defined as traveling at least 15 miles per hour over the posted limit, is often a factor in these accidents. In response, Connecticut announced a pilot program to identify when drivers zoom through work zones. Automated cameras will take pictures of the offenders, who will be issued a warning for the first violation, a $75 fine for the second and $150 for the third.
Breakdown of Work Zone Accident Statistics
Since 2010, fatal work zone accidents have increased over 40 percent. Based on figures from the National Safety Council, 842 people were killed and 39,100 injured in such crashes.
In construction areas, workers are often separated from motorists by nothing more than traffic cones. Although laborers would assume greater risk, statistics show that motorists make up the majority of fatalities. What’s behind the recent increase in work zone accidents?
During the COVID-19 lockdown, communities across the country took the opportunity to address much-needed road construction, with fewer people out driving.
However, a survey conducted by the HCSS and the Associated General Contractors of America found that 60 percent of contractors reported work zone accidents in 2020, a sharp increase from 2019. Speed was found to be the cause of a majority of these incidents.
Work Zone Design
Construction zones change traffic patterns, which can cause confusion. This may involve:
- A narrower roadway for more cars to travel through
- More stops or changing the location of an exit
- Re-routing traffic onto side streets that aren’t designed for heavy traffic
Barriers between workers and oncoming traffic can also be small or nonexistent. Laborers might have to work behind cones, a flimsy fence or line painted on the road that can be hard to see in the dark.
Even for drivers who travel below the work zone’s speed limit, congestion can make it more difficult to navigate around maintenance vehicles, obstructions and read new signage. If a motorist is distracted, speeding or otherwise reckless, this can quickly lead to a collision.
Research from the FHWA shows a 40 percent drop in traffic between 2019 and 2020, yet fatal crashes increased over this period. Connecticut was no exception, as 2021 saw more motorists on the road but drivers did not stop their reckless behaviors.
Research from Pew Charitable Trusts found that since the pandemic started, drivers are more likely to travel through work zones at 100 miles per hour or faster.
Inconsistent Move Over Laws
Move Over Laws are not uniform. Certain states require drivers to slow down or move over to the next lane if an emergency vehicle is present. Connecticut’s Move Over Law also applies to emergency and maintenance vehicles.
Law enforcement is not always able to catch people who violate this statute. As a result, workers using heavy equipment routinely contend with cars zipping by far above the posted speed limit, even if a crash does not occur.
Were you or a loved one injured by a reckless motorist while working on a road construction or utility project? Bring your claim to Trantolo & Trantolo’s car accident lawyers today.