Roads are considerably more dangerous while under construction, especially to workers who are virtually helpless against a speeding, out-of-control vehicle.
Indiana police said that the female driver had changed lanes several times before hitting a construction workers. Reports stated that she moved from the left lane to the middle lane where she ended up behind a semi. The driver then moved to the right, where she hit a construction barrel. Once she hit the barrel, the woman veered into the construction site and hit a second barrel before losing control and hitting a construction worker. The worker was thrown through the windshield before hitting a parked pick-up truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene. He leaves behind two children. The cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma. An investigation is ongoing.
The stretch of highway where the crash occurred has been under construction for months and has been marked with barrels, cones, and signs. According to an Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) official, the work zone met all safety requirements required by INDOT to protect the traveling public. But, the incident has raised concerns by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 as to whether barrels are enough to protect workers. A union spokesperson said that buffer zones between traffic and workers is sometimes no more than 12 inches. The union also said that INDOT was contacted about safety concerns related to the use of barrels instead of a concrete barrier on this particular construction site, but INDOT said that while concrete barriers may increase worker safety, the closure of additional lanes to accommodate the barriers could create massive backups and increase accidents.
“It must be stressed that this tragic accident happened miles into the work zone, which met all safety requirements, not at the beginning or end of the zone where traffic begins to taper,” said an INDOT spokesman. “This driver, who was seen weaving in and out of traffic, cut into the middle of a work zone recklessly before striking the worker.”
Without a doubt, drivers travelling through work zones have a role to play in promoting workplace safety for workers. But more can, and should be done. While part of a solution includes nighttime construction when the additional lane can be closed down, questions about policies and procedures relevant to worker safety remain.
Reducing the risks begins with an increased awareness of the dangers in any work zone. These include, but are not limited to:
- Obstructed view
- Narrow lanes
- Confusing, improper or lack of signage
- Hazards on or next to the road
- Pavement drop-off or inadequate pavement markings
Construction companies can also reduce the risk of injury or death by providing proper safety training to its workers. Workers should wear high visibility garments, such as fluorescent or reflective clothing, arm bands, hats or vests. Flaggers should understand the traffic flow and work zone set up. They should also keep good sight communication or maintain two-way radio communication.
There also needs to be increased public awareness. Here are some tips for motorists to safely travel through construction zones.
- Be alert to signs posted ahead of a work zone and warning of construction ahead.
- Obey flaggers.
- Be aware of construction zone speed limits.
- Allow adequate stopping distance and avoid passing on the shoulder.
- Avoid passing on the shoulder or using the medians for any reason.
- Stay alert and avoid distractions.
- Avoid tailgating.
- Be mindful of construction workers on duty. Keep a safe distance from workers, barrels, machines, etc.
Above all, workers and motorists alike should always think safety and be aware of your surroundings.
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.