- The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) reports that 10 people have died this year in state work-zone accidents, according to the Clinton Herald.
- IDOT officials said speeding and distracted driving behaviors like texting have contributed to dangerous conditions in roadwork areas.
- So far, there have been fewer road construction work zone fatalities this year than in 2016, which saw 13 work-zone related deaths. The amount of construction activity has also decreased slightly this year, down to $680 million from 2016's $695 million.
When motorists crash into highway work zones, those accidents are counted as "struck-by" incidents, along with jobsite incidents involving construction equipment like dump trucks or forklifts. From 2011 to 2015, more than 800 U.S. construction workers — more than in any other industry — died from struck-by accidents, according to the Center for Construction Research and Training. The organization reported that 18% of those workers died as a result of being struck by a vehicle, and 57% of those deaths happened in work zones.
To keep their road crews safe, construction companies employ a variety of measures. Some of those measures include positive protection, or keeping vehicles out of work zones as much as possible, according to the Federal Highway Administration. These methods of include using concrete or ballast-filled barriers and employing shadow vehicles equipped with attenuators, which are mounted devices meant to take on and absorb the impact of a crash.
But these buffers are only part of the equation. Night construction brings with it the added disadvantage of lower visibility and the increased chance of an incapacitated driver passing near workers, according to Clark Peterson, vice president of environmental health and safety at Skanska USA Civil. In addition to the positive protection measures, he said, the company also outfits workers with hard hat-mounted, 360-degree illumination devices to help them see their surroundings better and to make them visible to drivers coming through the area.
Peterson told Construction Dive that Skanska is an advocate for changing safety laws as well, some of which treat hitting construction workers with a vehicle in a work zone as little more than a traffic violation. In California, accidentally running a vehicle into a construction worker would have resulted in only a $300 civil fine before a stricter law was passed. The legislation now gives law enforcement the flexibility to treat such an incident as a potential assault with fines of up to $2,000.