With our highways aging and more money being set aside for public works projects, road construction sites are expected to grow in number in the near future. While this news will eventually mean good things for the millions of people who will take advantage of safer and better roads, road construction carries with it certain dangers. The interim during which road construction is taking place is risky for both drivers and construction workers.
Accidents and Incidents by Numbers
Every year car crashes involving more than 700 fatalities and 37,000 injuries take place across the country, according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association. The majority of these accidents are caused by driver error—for example, the number of incidents of one vehicle rear-ending another is significantly higher in construction zones, as the stop-and-go nature of these sites requires particularly vigilant driving.
Other problems include speeding and aggressive driving. In 2005, speed was a factor in 27 percent of fatal crashes in construction zones. Aggressive driving—failing to yield, excessive lane changes and the like—was another big cause of accidents in these zones, as employing these tactics in areas where lane size is reduced and traffic capacity is taxed leads to more incidents.
What Are the Strategies for Reducing the Risk
The good news is that the numbers of accidents and incidents are heading downward. In 2009, there were 667 fatalities from motor vehicle crashes in construction zones, which is a drop of 7.4 percent from 2008. In fact, these numbers have been consistently falling every year over the past decade. Much of this success is due to the efforts of governments and contractors to educate the public about construction site safety and make the fines for dangerous driving in construction zones heftier.
Part of these efforts include putting up construction barricades and signs that warn drivers of upcoming construction sites and using traffic barriers to make navigation through these zones easier and more intuitive. Many states have also raised or doubled fines for speeding in construction zones in an effort to try to encourage drivers to slow down and be more aware of their surroundings. Some have even added traffic cameras to further mitigate the risk.
Both state and local governments as well as construction contractors are well aware of the safety dangers for everyone involved in road construction efforts and do what they can to reduce the numbers of accidents and fatalities that occur in these zones. Ongoing efforts include further public education programs and effective use of highway resources to move drivers through the site as quickly and as safely as possible.