Florida Construction News staff writer
Officials demanding tougher safety enforcement and education programs as annual survey shows continued risks to construction workers and drivers in work zones.
Fifty-five percent of highway contractors reported vehicles had crashed into their construction work zones during the past year, according to results of a new highway work zone study conducted by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America and HCSS. As a result, association officials now calling on state and local leaders to enact new enforcement and education measures to improve work zone safety.
“Elected and appointed officials are not doing enough to protect workers and motorists in highway work zones,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist and author of the annual survey. “Our transportation networks may be invaluable, but the lives of workers and motorists are priceless.”The work zone safety study was based on a nationwide survey of more than 900 highway construction firms conducted during April and May. Click here to view the survey results.
The association is releasing a new video featuring highway workers pleading with motorists to be more careful when passing through work zones.
According to the survey results, motorists are in even greater danger from highway work zone crashes than construction workers, Simonson said. Twenty-eight percent of contractors participating in the survey experienced crashes that resulted in injury to construction workers. But more than twice as many firms—59 percent—reported experiencing a crash in which drivers or passengers were injured.
Work zone crashes also are twice as likely to result in fatalities to drivers or passengers as construction workers. Eight percent of contractors in the survey report that construction workers were killed in work zone crashes, while 16 percent of survey respondents report drivers or passengers were killed in those crashes.
“In many cases, vehicle speeding contributes to these crashes in work zones,” said Steve McGough, President and CEO of HCSS. “Utilizing speed cameras with a zero-tolerance policy would go a long way to protect the traveling public and our workforce.”
Simonson noted that 97 percent of contractors report that highway work zones are either as dangerous, or more dangerous, than they were a year ago. He added that more than half of contractors want automatic ticketing for speeding in work zones.
Seventy-nine percent want a greater police presence and 65 percent want stricter enforcement. And he noted that Oklahoma just became the first state to require completing a work zone safety course as a precondition for getting a driver’s license.
The contractors’ association is calling on every state to prioritize education and enforcement to make work zones safer. The association wants every state to require new drivers to complete a work zone safety course, deploy more police to work zones, authorize speed cameras in those zones and set tougher penalties, like fines and points, for unsafe work zone driving.
“Nobody should die because our laws fail to penalize unsafe operations in work zones in the same way they punish drunk driving and stigmatize not using a seat belt,” Simonson said.