The first emotion many of us experience when we encounter a work zone on the road is annoyance. Preoccupied with our children, our commute, or other life concerns, we may not stop to think about the human beings who are building or repairing the roadways that we all use daily.
Such a reaction can be understandable, especially if we are running late for an important appointment or to pick up a family member. Still, it’s essential that we keep the safety of the workers in mind. For that reason, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is spotlighting work zone worker safety in 2017 from April 3 through 7 during National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), an annual reminder that the FHWA has been sponsoring since 1999.
This year’s slogan, “Work Zone Safety is in Your Hands,” reminds all of us to prevent traffic accidents by taking responsibility for our actions as drivers in work zones. Work zone workers experience the risk of death or serious injury from vehicles that do not obey the rules of the road when they are traveling through such zones.
Do You Know the Numbers?
According to national data, 2014 saw 607 deadly work zone crashes, resulting in 669 fatalities. Texas had the greatest number of fatalities with 143; California was second with 64; and, perhaps surprisingly considering its relative size, Florida was third with 60 work zone deaths. Traffic fatalities in SC totaled 823 during 2014, with 9 of them occurring in a work zone.
Of the 607 fatal crashes in 2014:
- Speed was a factor in 28 percent of crashes.
- Alcohol played a part in 25 percent of crashes.
- Fatalities occurred more often on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
- Fatalities occurred more often from May through September.
But we don’t have to go back as far as 2014 to learn about local fatalities. During March, 2017, two SCDOT workers were killed in Aiken County as the result of a hit-and-run, with a third worker injured in the same incident. The driver that authorities believe is responsible for the fatalities has been charged.
As We Said in the Beginning . . .
You might wonder what it’s like to be in the shoes of a work zone worker. Recently, an average day for a Georgia DOT worker was highlighted in a story that brought this comment from GA District Communications Officer Kyle Collins: “Imagine what it would feel like to have a car go by 65-75 miles an hour, when you’re working a foot or inches away.”
Now consider the amount of focus and concentration it would take to do your job yet remain aware of cars whizzing by mere inches away. You would need to make sure you never take a wrong step, while keeping in mind that some drivers may be breaking the rules when it comes to speed limits.
SC does enforce higher penalties for work zone speeding violations, which are known as work zone enhancements. These enhancements are $75 to $200 in fines, up to 30 days in jail, or both.
What Can I Do?
Perhaps you are empathizing with those who keep our roads in good repair and are asking yourself what you can do. We have some suggestions for preventing accidents in work zones:
- Obey the reduced speed limit for the zone.
- Expect delays and allow enough time to reach your destination.
- Obey all posted signs until you leave the work zone.
- If there is a flagger, obey their signals.
- Be patient. Remember that the work zone delay was not created to annoy you.
- If the work zone along your route is unexpected, stay calm. Trying to save a few minutes is not worth putting your—or someone else’s—life at risk.
Listening hard. Working harder.
Should you or a loved one become involved in a vehicular accident, the Louthian Law Firm can help you navigate the complexities of South Carolina’s laws, deal with the insurance companies, and assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve for your medical bills, repair bills, lost income, and any other financial costs that the accident caused. Where appropriate, we’ll also seek compensation on your behalf for pain and suffering and other non-economic losses.