A recent study by the Associated General Contractors of America found that 44% of highway contractors reported that motor vehicles had crashed into their construction zone within the past year. This was up 13% from the percentage reported last year.
Additionally, 49% of contractors who reported work zone crashes on their projects said motor vehicle operators or passengers were injured, and 13% of those crashes involved a driver or passenger fatality.
While it should go without saying, being a consciousness driver is critical when navigating in or around construction zones. There are ways fleet drivers, working both inside and outside the construction zone, can be more mindful of their environment.
For drivers navigating past a construction zone, Art Liggio, president and CEO of Driving Dynamics, noted that there are some basic safety procedures that they should follow, which include following the posted speed limit, turning on headlights, and paying attention to flaggers at construction sites.
Liggio also noted that drivers should have broader awareness of their surroundings and on the layout of the road ahead.
“I think the one thing that we find is the most egregious but natural issue drivers have as they enter into construction sites is that they depend almost exclusively on focal vision,” said Liggio.
He said drivers entering construction sites may focus on the vehicle directly in front of them when navigating, which can result in them becoming less mindful of road conditions further ahead. In doing so, they may be unable to react to sudden changes in traffic that may lead to an accident.
“They should keep their eyes up, looking farther ahead not at the vehicle in front of them, so they can understand what the traffic is doing, and let their peripheral vision help them navigate the twists and turns of the road that they are going through.”
Considering the Construction Fleet
The same study by the Associated General Contractors of America found that crashes also pose a risk for construction workers, as 25% of work zone crashes injure construction workers and 11% of those crashes result in fatalities
To help reduce these risks, Liggio said that a big focus for construction fleets regarding safety should be placed on the onus of the workers themselves.
“We know that in spite of everything we try to do to get the driving public, from a behavioral perspective, to be more considerate on the road, that lots of times doesn’t happen,” he said. “A lot of the emphasis goes to the actual worker for awareness, how to position his or herself, also recognize if they have enough visibility on their own person, but also to make sure the site itself is properly marked.”
Liggio said that one of the high risk exposures comes from construction vehicles and equipment entering and exiting the work site into the roadway. Flaggers must carefully coordinate with their drivers so that the roadway traffic can be safely notified and controlled for imminent changes in traffic patterns. The risk in these situations are the roadway drivers whom continue to remain focused on the vehicle in front of them instead of looking farther ahead. Not staying alert for unplanned changes in routing or stops is a dangerous recipe that affects everyone in the construction zone.