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How safe are highway work zones?

Tennessee drivers have been educated in a variety of road hazards. You know to slow down approaching a blind turn and when traveling through intersections. You know a good rainstorm coupled with driving too fast may cause you to lose control of your car. You know it is dangerous to drink and drive. Another hazard you should be aware of is work zones.

With lane closures, detours and moving equipment to keep track of, it is easy to understand why drivers get confused, despite the use of traffic cones and signs to direct approaching drivers. According to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, there were nearly 100,000 work zone accidents throughout the nation in 2015, which break down as follows:

  • 642 crashes resulting in one or more deaths, which equates to an annual average of 12 fatalities each week.
  • 25,485 accidents with injuries to one or more people, which on average, means there are 70 crashes each day that result in injuries.
  • 70,499 crashes with only property damage. An overall average of accidents that occur equals a work zone crash about every 5 minutes.

The majority of work-zone accidents occur during warmer months, which is not surprising as weather prevents road construction in many states during the winter season. It is interesting to split the data down into more specific categories as well.

In 2014, fatal crashes in work zones numbered 607. Of that number of accidents:

  • There were 669 fatalities
  • Speeding played a role in 172 accidents
  • Alcohol was involved in 132
  • Daytime crashes accounted for 65 percent of the total
  • More fatal accidents occurred on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays

Also, 23 percent of these accidents occurred on urban-area highways and another 20 percent on arterials in urban areas. More than 40 percent of the crashes were noted as rear-end collisions.

The best action you can take when approaching a work zone is to slow down and obey watch for signs, flagmen and cones that are there to help you get through the zone safety. Drive the posted speed limit, which should give you plenty of time to react to detours, lane changes and perhaps other drivers who are not as cautious.

This article contains general information. It is not intended as legal advice.

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