Most people are not on high alert for potential dangers and threats in their workplace, but road workers out on the nation’s highways and local roads risk injury every day. That being the case, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) decided to focus on raising awareness of the dangers of road work—which is in full force in the spring—with last month’s National Work Zone Awareness Week.
The week’s theme, “Expect the Unexpected,” encouraged all drivers to use extreme caution and awareness in work zones, not only through the week but the rest of the year as well. Specifically, FHWA urged drivers to go slower and watch for “narrowed, shifted, or closed lanes; and people who may be working in or near the road.”
Major components of the campaign include raising awareness of the following factors:
Speeding drivers pose a huge threat to road workers. A fast car cannot always slow down in time to stop when an unexpected obstacle pops up — road signs, construction vehicles, backed-up traffic or even a road worker.
The most recent data available from 2013 indicate 579 people were killed in work-zone car accidents, and in 23 percent of those cases, the driver was going too fast. Two out of three victims in the work zone crash that year were drivers and passengers, the FHWA reported. The year before, 617 people were killed in work zone crashes.
Cell phones and handheld devices play a substantial part in causing road work accidents as well because drivers are not fully focused on the road ahead. In a work zone, any changes to the road, such as decreasing speed limits and closing or shifting lanes, are posted with several signs leading up to the change. However, drivers who are looking at their laps or phones may not notice these signs in time.
Adapting to Road Changes
The ability to adapt to one’s surroundings on the road (obstacles, weather, hazards, etc.) is critical for drivers to master, especially in work zones on the highway or road. These zones often have cones and flaggers signaling road work ahead and warning drivers to slow down and prepare for changes. However, when the road workers are off-duty, drivers still need to use caution because changes may not be as visible without flaggers or the bustle of ongoing work.
Ensuring safety for road workers is high on the FHWA’s priority list this year and the National Work Zone Awareness Week was only the first step. Drivers should use extra caution in work zones and keep their eyes open for workers, changing traffic patterns and other conditions that could require extra focus and concentration.
If you have been injured on the job as a road worker, you may be entitled to benefits and compensation from your employer and the at-fault party. To discuss your case, contact a Denver workers’ compensation attorney at the Levine Law Firm for a free, no-strings consultation today.