The elevated risk of work zone accidents to road workers, relative to many professionals laboring in different fields, may be intuitive. These workers labor in road construction work zones, which are located in unavoidably close proximity to imperfect human beings driving cars at very high speeds.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, 20,000 road workers are injured each year in road construction work zones. From 2009 to 2013, the United States experienced over 100 fatalities among these workers while on the job. The combination of fatalities and injuries to this segment of the workforce accounts for over 1.5 percent of work-related injuries.
As reported by the Illinois Department of Transportation, 4,863 traffic accidents were reported in road construction work zones in 2013. From these nearly 5,000 accidents during the year, 1,525 people were injured and 24 people were killed. In other words, nearly every third accident resulted in an injury and nearly every 200 accidents resulted in a fatality.
Impaired or careless drivers often to blame
The factors that lead to highway construction accidents range from impaired or careless drivers to inadequate instructions for drivers, as well as weather conditions. The FHA observed that the category of speeding, drunken or otherwise careless driving produces a large amount of accidents resulting in injured road workers. Lack of adequate warning signs and weather conditions were also cited among leading factors.
Additionally, the FHA described the specific nature of accidents that most commonly result in injuries or fatalities among road workers. The following three types of accidents are the most prevalent:
- Run-over or backed-over, often by dump trucks (48 percent of cases)
- Caught in a collision between vehicles (14 percent)
- Struck by construction equipment or objects (14 percent)
The balance of accidents is distributed among a variety of other types.
Strict laws enforced to reduce risk
In order to reduce the risk of work zone accidents to road workers, the State of Illinois enforces strict highway construction safety laws. Because drivers are frequently at fault, the State focuses on punishments designed to deter impaired or careless driving. Penalties include an initial $375 fine for speeding in a work zone and a $1,000 fine for repeat offenders. If driving results in an accident, a $10,000 fine and a prison sentence may ensue.
Road workers who have incurred workplace-related injuries may be entitled to compensation through the Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act. In order to increase the probability of receiving deserved benefits under workers’ compensation, injured workers may wish to contact an attorney.