Preventing Accidents in Road Work Zones

Highway Work Zone Safety

As the weather continues to improve, road construction across the country is on the rise. With hundreds of road construction projects taking place across the U.S., there is also an increase of hazards that are on the road for drivers. These hazards are not just dangerous for drivers – but also pose serious dangers for construction workers as well. According the CDC, there have been on average 669 fatalities from 2007 through 2012 in work zones in the U.S. Of those fatalities in 2012, workers accounted for 130 deaths.

Not all accidents in work zone lead to fatalities. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) found that in 2010, there were over 87,000 crashes in work zones, yet only 0.6% of these crashes were fatal. Nevertheless, 30% of all crashes recorded by the CDC led to injuries to either drivers, passengers and/or workers. These numbers indicate the serious dangers of work zone crashes.

Making Highways a Safer Place for Everyone

Because the number of work zone accidents continues to pose a risk to workers as well as drivers and passengers alike, every U.S. state has implemented specific laws in order to try to decrease the number of work zone collisions. For example, in New York speeding through an area that has been marked as a work zone is punishable with either a $90-$600 fine or up to 30 days in jail, or both. In New Jersey, all moving vehicle violation fines are doubled in work zones and in Pennsylvania various vehicle violation fines are also doubled. Financial consequences such as fines and the threat of jail time are just one part of a constant effort to reduce accidents.

From campaigns such as “Slow Down – My Mommy Works Here” to “Give ’em a Brake,” numerous DOT (Department of Transportation) awareness campaigns are trying to curb the amount of work zone accidents. What can you do to make the roads safe for the men and women that build and maintain our roads? Always be mindful of the fact that as a driver- you share the road with other drivers as well as pedestrians and construction workers. Vigilance around road work zones can make an enormous difference in preventing accidents.

The Department of Transportation gives some of the following safety tips to drivers when entering work zones:

  •  In every work zone- be it any major or minor road or highway, expect the unexpected. Normal speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people and/or vehicles may be working on or near the road.
  • Diamond-shaped orange warning signs are posted in advance of road construction projects. Slow down, be alert and pay attention to these signs.
  • Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment and workers.
  • In addition to other warning signs, a “flagger ahead” warning sign may be posted in a work zone. When you see this, stay alert and be prepared to obey the flagger’s directions. In a work zone, a flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign (eg. traffic light or stop sign), so you can be cited for disobeying his or her directions.
  • The most common crash in a highway work zone is a rear-end collision, so remember to leave enough braking distance (three car lengths) between you and the car in front of you.


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