Alerting Drivers To Move Over Safely In Highway Work Zones
I’ve written several past articles about Huntsville area road construction and safety. With the tremendous growth in our area, construction zone safety is a big issue. Over the next few years, we will continue to see major road construction on some of our main highways including Interstate 565, Highway 72 and Highway 53. These projects are needed but will impact traffic.
Since road construction safety is a major issue in the Tennessee Valley, I thought I would briefly mention a AAA research article I read this week. The article is titled Attention Grabbing: Helping Motorists Spot Roadside Workers. One quote from the article really caught my attention:
Of those surveyed, 60% had experienced a near miss working at the roadside, while an astonishing 15% had survived being hit by a passing vehicle.
Construction zones are dangerous for both workers and other drivers. Several reasons lead to driver danger in construction zones. I’ll briefly touch on a few of them.
One is familiarity. Drivers are used to familiarity. Most of us drive the same routes on a daily basis. When conditions suddenly change, drivers are sometimes caught by surprise. If a driver is distracted or speeding, it can be too late to avoid an accident.
Another reason for danger is frustration. If you drive the same route on a regular basis to work, school or other activities, you know the usual travel time. Suddenly, a road is under construction. Lanes may be closed. Cars may be re-directed. Traffic slows or stops. Your commute takes longer than you expected. We’ve all seen that one driver who exhibits open frustration or road rage under these conditions. We’ve all seen that driver who ignores the lane closure until the very last second, then swings over in front of everyone. Those rude drivers cause car crashes and injuries.
A third reason for work zone danger is distraction. Not the usual distraction of drivers texting or using electronic devices in their car. I’m talking about the distraction of movement on the road from workers and equipment around you. These outside distractions can grab the attention of drivers and lead to accidents.
I’m not really surprised that a large number of highway workers have experienced a near miss or even been struck by a passing vehicle. In recent years, our firm has represented workers on multiple different work sites across northern Alabama who have been hit by a passing motorist. When a passing car hits an unprotected worker in the road, it’s usually fatal. The workers who survive are often left with a disabling traumatic brain injury (TBI) or multiple orthopedic injuries. We recently helped a worker (and his family) after he was struck by a speeding motorist while working on a project in Madison. For weeks following the crash, the worker’s family did not know whether he would survive. They lived day and night at Huntsville Hospital hoping and waiting for good news. He survived. But he will never work again. He was young with his whole life in front of him. Now, he is disabled. He now depends on his sister and parents for help. His entire family will have to sacrifice to care for him. The accident that disabled this young worker should have never happened.
What Can Be Done By Contractors To Decrease Work Zone Dangers?
In my past articles, I’ve discussed actions drivers can take to travel safely through work zones. I’ve focused mainly on driver behavior.
Let’s talk about contractor behavior. What can the companies building our roads and highways do to protect their workers? From cones to signs to flaggers.
According to the AAA research article, one single activity can make a tremendous difference in lowering work zone accidents and injuries. The article says electronic vehicle-mounted signs (VMS) are one of the most effective ways to alert oncoming drivers to slow down and move over. According to the research:
The odds of a vehicle moving over were 95% higher when the VMS was used.
That’s a huge increase in safety! We’ve all seen trucks with big mounted signs in the back. Usually, those signs are flashing a big arrow telling us to move to the right or left. Because they are mounted above the ground (and usually lit up), you can see them in plenty of time. You can see them from far away, unlike a barrel or cone on the ground that might be obscured by other vehicles.
While I wrote this post to discuss an action contractors can take to make our daily commute safer, you can read some of my past road work zone safety articles here:
- Huntsville Infrastructure Growth Puts Road Crews In The Safety Spotlight
- Road Safety Includes Work Zones!
The Blackwell Law Firm focuses solely on cases involving serious personal injury or death. We only handle personal injury cases so that we can spend 100% of our time focused on best helping our clients. Outside the courtroom, we continue to advocate for safer roadways, safer work sites and safer products.