Construction zones dangerous for drivers, work crews

Apr 26 2012 - 5:48am

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OGDEN -- With more than 200 active construction zones expected this year, the Utah Department of Transportation wants motorists to watch out for the workers.

A new highway work zone study conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America revealed that 68 percent of the nation's highway contractors had motor vehicles crash into their construction work zones during the past year.

The most recent statistics available from the Utah Department of Transportation are from 2010. They show 10 fatalities and more than 1,300 people injured in Utah's work zones that year.

According to UDOT, an average of eight crashes occur in work zones across the state every day.

Three out of four work zone accidents are caused by drivers, said UDOT spokesman Nate McDonald.

"That tells us it's preventable," he said, "so we encourage motorists to slow down and pay extra attention when driving through a work zone, especially this year, when we have so many projects."

Tom Brown, chairman of the AGCA's national highway and transportation division, said the study, as expected, found those work zone crashes are more likely to kill construction workers than they are to kill vehicle operators or passengers.

"Anytime your job site is just a few feet away from fast-moving traffic, things can get a little too exciting," Brown said.

"Since construction workers don't get the option of wearing seat belts, they are more likely to be killed in a work zone crash than motorists are." However, UDOT's numbers from 2010 show that no construction workers were killed in accidents.

The AGCA study also said while they are less likely to kill motor vehicle operators and passengers, highway work zone crashes do pose a significant risk for people in cars.

More than 50 percent of work zone crashes injure drivers or passengers. The driver is killed in 15 percent of those crashes.

McDonald said the state has stepped up safety efforts in the past few years to include new and improved pavement markings, road signs, work zone traffic control devices, guardrails and other roadside safety features.

Brown said many other states have done similar things, but the biggest burden to avoid work zone crashes lies with motorists.

"The easiest way to improve work zone safety is to get motorists to slow down and pay attention," he said.

"When motorists see construction signs and orange barrels, they need to take the foot off the gas, put the phone down and keep their eyes on the road."

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