Highway Contractors Say Work Zone Crashes Rising

According to the results of a new highway work zone study conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America and Texas-based construction software provider HCSS, 64 percent of highway contractors report that motor vehicles crashed into their construction work zones during the past 12 months.

[Above image by AGC]

The survey also found that 49 percent of those contractors polled said highway work zones are more dangerous now compared to the prior year, with another 48 percent noting that the risks faced by their roadway crews are the same as a year ago. Finally, 64 percent of contractors report that the current penalties for moving violations in highway work zones are not sufficient to deter unsafe driving behavior.

AGC and HCSS noted that 700 contractors completed this national work zone safety survey, with the two firms polling those contractors between April and May this year.

“Bad driving behavior and lax work zone safety laws don’t just put construction workers at greater risk,” said Jeffrey Shoaf, CEO of AGC, in a statement. “Our new data shows that drivers and their passengers are in even greater danger from highway work zone crashes. That is why AGC is pushing Congress to require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to collect comprehensive data on work zone crashes, including who is killed or injured in those crashes and to require states to create plans to reduce work zone crashes.”

Photo by Maryland Lt. Gov.’s Office

[Editor’s note: State departments of transportation across the country are engaged in a variety of efforts aimed at improving work zone safety; including participating in the annual National Work Zone Awareness Week safety campaign.]

He added that 24 percent of survey respondents reported experiencing five or more crashes during the past 12 months. Among respondents who reported experiencing work zone crashes, 29 percent experienced crashes that resulted in injury to construction workers, with more than twice as many firms – 66 percent – experiencing a crash in which drivers or passengers were injured.

Work zone crashes are also nearly three times as likely to result in fatalities to drivers or passengers as construction workers, AGC noted in its survey. Nine percent of contractors in the survey report that construction workers were killed in work zone crashes, while 24 percent of survey respondents report drivers or passengers were killed in those crashes.

[Editor’s note: AGC issued two videos with its survey results to highlight the need for greater highway work zone safety, including the one below by Balfour Beatty and S.T. Wooten Corporation concerning C.J. Bryant, who was killed in a work zone crash on I-40 in North Carolina.]

“Automated enforcement laws would go a long way in improving work zone safety, especially if the work zone is on the driver’s daily route,” noted Steve McGough, president and CEO of HCSS. “It compels drivers to decrease their speed and pay closer attention to their surroundings.”

McGough added that two-thirds of respondents to AGC’s survey want states to pass stricter laws against cell phone usage and distracted driving in work zones. And 60 percent want automated enforcement in those zones.

“We can only make a difference on this issue if we continue to provide both national and state data on work zone crashes as well as personal stories about their impact,” he emphasized. “Zero is the only acceptable outcome where work zone crashes are concerned.

“Too few drivers see the need to slow down and pay attention in work zones because too few states have made work zone safety a top priority,” AGC’s Shoaf said.

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