Some 64% of highway contractors had motor vehicles crash into their construction work zones during the past year, according to a national survey of 500 contractors conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America and HCSS.
Moreover, firms doing highway upgrades are well aware of the danger factor. In fact, 97% of contractors say that highway work zones are either as dangerous, or more dangerous, than they were a year ago. That figure is consistent with newly released federal data that reported motor vehicle fatalities rose to a 17-year high in 2021.
Experts believe risky behaviors such as distracted driving, impaired driving, and speeding are some of the biggest problems that lead to collisions in work zones.
Interestingly, the survey found that in work zone crashes motorists experience more injuries and fatalities than construction workers — who would appear to be more vulnerable, often standing on a roadside unprotected.
Specifically, 7% of contractors surveyed report that construction workers were killed in work zone crashes, yet more than double — 15% — said drivers or passengers lost their lives in those crashes. As for injuries, 18% of respondents said they experienced crashes that resulted in injury to construction workers while 41% reported experiencing a crash in which drivers or passengers were injured.
In 2020, there were 857 total work zone traffic fatalities as compared to 845 in 2019, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.
Moreover, three types of work zone crashes changed significantly in recent years, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
In 2020, crashes involving a rear-end collision comprised 20% of work zone crashes as opposed to 24% in 2019. Crashes involving a commercial motor vehicle fell to 27% in 2020 as compared to 33% in 2019. Finally, work zone crashes where speeding was a factor rose to 37% in 2020 as compared to 32% in 2019.