The risk of being killed for those who work at road construction sites has risen. The numbers have spiked from 72 fatalities in 2013 to 103 deaths in 2016. Overall, 532 workers died at road construction sites from 2011 through 2016. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training’s recent report, the total number of deaths in construction zones is more than twice that for all other industries combined.
Approximately half of the fatalities occurred because workers were struck by vehicles or equipment, and almost three-fourths of those who died worked in the street, highway, or bridge construction sector. Additional findings include:
- Those who worked at road construction sites as crossing guards and as paving and surfacing operators had the highest fatality rate of all—40.9 per 100,000 workers.
- Fatal accidents involving road construction workers were most likely to occur in June and October.
- From 2003 through 2016, 9 percent of all construction fatalities happened at road construction sites.
Many of these deaths would not have happened except for someone’s carelessness, inattention, or negligence. Construction workers and those whose jobs are in the transportation sector lead the numbers for on-the-job fatalities in the U.S., and have done so since 1992. The statistics come from American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE’s) “Work Zone Safety for Highway Construction” standard, A10.47-2009.
Scott Schneider, the standard’s committee chair, stated that, “Each year, many construction workers are killed in work zones. Their deaths could have been prevented. They were run over by motorists, backed over by construction vehicles, and electrocuted by overhead power lines.”
What Are the Laws in South Carolina?
Many states have laws mandating doubled fines for speeding in construction work zones, meaning doing so could result in hundreds of dollars in fines or perhaps even jail time. In South Carolina, a law signed by the governor in June, 2017, created a new traffic violation known as “endangering a highway worker.” When a driver travels outside their lane or does not obey traffic signs or signals in highway construction work zones, they can be charged with this new violation. The fines range from $500 to $5,000:
- If no highway workers are injured, the fine will be $500 to $1,000.
- If a highway worker is injured at all, the fine will be $1,000 to $2,000.
- If the highway worker sustains great bodily harm, the fine will be $2,000 to $5,000.
Other charges that can be brought if an accident occurs in a work zone include reckless driving, driving under the influence, and vehicular homicide.
As of mid-June 2017, 39 workers died while doing their jobs on South Carolina roads over the previous 100 years, according to the SC Department of Transportation.
Safety Tips for Work Zones
Improving conditions “on both sides of the orange barrels” takes cooperation from everyone. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration points out that those inside vehicles, as opposed to those working on the construction sites, are often the ones who die in work zone accidents. During the past five years, approximately 85 percent of work zone fatalities were drivers or passengers, with the most common type of work zone wreck being a rear-end crash. Such types of crashes are exacerbated by speeding, reckless driving, or bad weather.
Everyone must do their part so that working in and traveling through a construction zone is safe for all. We have some suggestions for the next time you encounter a work zone.
- Minimize all distractions and remain alert once you realize you will be entering a construction zone.
- Turn on your headlights for extra visibility, and obey any posted speed limits.
- Watch for signs announcing detours and lane changes. Remain alert for other drivers and for workers such as crossing guards and flaggers.
- Expect the unexpected to occur.
- Do not tailgate!
- Do not change lanes if at all possible.
- Keep your speed constant as much as you are able.
- Do not travel at the normal posted speed again until you are clear of the construction zone.
- Driving through a nighttime construction zone calls for extra caution and leaving lots of extra space between you and other vehicles. Keep a sharp eye out for workers.
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Have you been injured in a motor vehicle crash and suspect that negligence by the other party is involved? We at the Louthian Law Firm have represented injured South Carolinians in vehicular accident and personal injury suits since 1959. With our firm on the case, you can rest assured that you’ll get the personalized attention you deserve.
South Carolina law entitles you to hold that party legally responsible for your medical expenses as well as any lost wages and other financial losses. You may also seek compensation for pain and suffering or the loss of comfort, care and companionship of a loved one. The deadline for filing a claim is always running, so call the Louthian Law Firm for help today or, if you prefer, you can fill out our confidential online contact form.