Kill a Highway Worker Go to Jail!

That was what one side said in a construction zone. “The Federal Highway Administration reports fatal crashes in construction and maintenance work zones dropped from 716 in 2008 to 667 in 2009.  Texas, Florida, and California ranked as the three States with the most motor vehicle crash fatalities in work zones (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/highwayworkzones/). You have heard the story before, driver speeds through a construction zone loses control, strikes and kills a construction worker. There is nothing new here, right?

A recent road trip took me from Virginia to Missouri, to Chicago, and back to Virginia. Along the way, I drove through more than my fair share of construction zones along the various highways. What I found was shocking and even ridiculous. As I drove through these construction zones, I found most were not completely set up. It was as if they started to put all the pieces together, but by the time they got to the end they were tired, ran out of material, or both. Many construction zones were not operating properly.

During my trips, I went drove by several signs that stated that the construction zone was active when flashing lights were working. As I drove by the non-flashing signs I quickly found construction workers and equipment working away. In these areas the traffic didn’t slow down as required apparently because the lights were not flashing. This was in spite of the obvious workers and equipment.

I went through other work zones that stated that the work zone was active when flashing with the lights flashing away and no construction workers or equipment to be found. Again the traffic did not slow down as required in spite of the flashing signs because the drivers somehow knew there was no workers or equipment there.

The one thing I found common through all the construction zones I drove through was that traffic did slow down to the posted speed limit. Most drivers didn’t even slow down at all while other drivers reduced their vehicle speed by 5-7 miles per hour.

The one thought I was left with is that it is a wonder that more construction workers aren’t killed while working on highway construction projects. I don’t understand how the numbers of deaths have gone down because I have not seen any real improvement in the use of highway construction zones or drivers slowing down. The bottom line is that it takes both the proper use and maintenance of construction zones and drivers who will slow down to the posted speed limits while in the construction zone. Either that or we send someone to jail for 14 years for killing a highway construction worker. I don’t want to see any more construction workers die, and I don’t want to see someone go to jail for 14 years, let’s take responsibility for our actions and keep each other safe.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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