How Do Highway Construction Accidents Happen?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Grant Lawson with Metier Law Firm.
One of the biggest hazards that construction workers face when working on a highway or near a roadway is the risk of being hit by an oncoming vehicle. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), from 1982 through 2017, 27,037 individuals died in work zone crashes, drivers and workers alike. While construction workers have a personal responsibility to make safe choices, drivers in particular need to exercise extreme caution when entering or leaving a construction zone, or anywhere that construction workers are present. Slowing down and moving over is a good way to give construction workers extra space, lowering the chances of a severe or life-threatening collision.
According to the CDC, 1,844 workers lost their lives at road construction sites from 2003-2017.
While drivers and passengers can certainly sustain injuries in a highway work zone collision, it’s important to remember that construction workers are largely unprotected. Without the large metal shell of a vehicle around them, the injuries a construction worker is likely to sustain in a highway vehicle collision are typically catastrophic and in many cases fatal. This is why drivers are legally required to abide by the directions of any safety signs leading up to the work zone, while passing the work zone, and even after the work zone.
Some of the most common causes of highway construction accidents include:
- Driver confusion: The signs, cones, and lights used to indicate alternate routes for vehicles around highway work zones can be confusing. When drivers become disoriented, they are more likely to cause an accident or drive somewhere they shouldn’t, putting anyone else on the road at risk, including construction workers. In low light or poor weather conditions, construction signs, cones, and lights can be even more disorienting; a good rule of thumb for drivers is to slow significantly as you approach a work zone so that your mind has time to take in the surroundings and maneuver the vehicle safely through the work zone.
- Slippery surfaces: When the road is particularly slick with water, oil, ice, or anything else that could affect the traction of the tires, drivers and workers alike are at higher risk of an accident occurring. Roads may be particularly slick after rain when oil rises to the surface and/or a small amount of water on the road increases the chance of hydroplaning, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. Whenever a surface or roadway is slick, it’s a good idea to slow down so that the brakes can be used sparingly; slamming on the brakes on a slick surface could make the tires slip.
- Faded lanes: When lane markers are particularly faded, or old lane markers are left carelessly uncovered, it can be confusing to know where to drive. A lack of visible/clear lane markings could result in drivers operating their vehicles where they shouldn’t, increasing the risk of a car-on-car accident as well as putting any roadway workers in the area at risk of collision.
- Lack of warning signs: Work zones on highways and near roadways should be clearly marked to let drivers know in advance that they are approaching an area where low speeds and precautionary driving practices are expected. If a work zone lacks sufficient warning signs, the person responsible for the site could be considered partially liable in the event of an accident.
- Debris: Debris can include just about any item that shouldn’t be on the road. Construction tools, equipment, and garbage on the road can create a dangerous situation for drivers and workers alike, requiring drivers to swerve to avoid the debris, potentially losing control and causing an accident. Other common types of debris include pieces of tire from previous blowouts, large rocks, branches, and trees, and even furniture and appliances that fall out of passing vehicles.
To learn more about highway construction accidents or to discuss your options for recovery as a worker who was injured in one, reach out to a construction accident attorney.