Forty-five percent of highway contractors had motor vehicles crash into their construction work zones during the past year, according to the results of a new highway work-zone study conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials added that the study found work-zone crashes are more likely to kill vehicle operators and passengers than construction workers.
“There is little margin for error when you work within a few inches of thousands of fast-moving vehicles,” said Tom Case, the chair of the association’s national highway and transportation division and senior vice president of Watsonville, Calif.-based Granite Construction. “As the data makes clear, not enough drivers are slowing down and staying alert near work sites.”
Case said that 43% of contractors reported that motor-vehicle operators or passengers were injured during work-zone crashes this past year, and 16% were killed in those crashes. While they are less likely to kill construction workers, highway work-zone crashes do pose a significant risk for people in hard hats, Case added. He noted that more than 20% of work-zone crashes injure construction workers, and 6% of those crashes kill them.
Work-zone crashes also have a pronounced impact on construction schedules and costs, Case said. He noted that 25% of contractors reported that work-zone crashes during the past year have forced them to temporarily shut down construction activity. Those delays were often lengthy, as 38% of those project shutdowns lasted two or more days.
Association officials said that 67% of contractors nationwide feel that tougher laws, fines and legal penalties for moving violations in work zones would reduce injuries and fatalities. In addition, 74% of contractors said that an increased use of concrete barriers will help reduce injuries and fatalities. And 66% of contractors nationwide agree that more frequent safety training for workers could help. They added that many firms and the association have crafted these types of highway-safety programs.
But Case suggested that the best way to improve safety was for motorists to be more careful while driving through highway work zones. “Ensuring proper work-zone safety starts and ends with cautious drivers,” Case said.
The work-zone-safety study was based on a nationwide survey of highway construction firms conducted by the association in March this year. More than 400 contractors completed the survey nationwide, while a large enough sample of contractors in six states completed the survey to allow for state-specific results.