The dangers of West Virginia’s road construction work zones

Summer's road construction season is in full swing in West Virginia and across much of the country. Local, state and federal governments alike wait impatiently through the winter months for the warm temperatures and bright sun conditions that will allow them to fix worn road surfaces, make other repairs and begin projects to better control traffic flow.

While it is true that road construction is inevitable and it is indeed in the best interests of the state and its citizens, it can cause quite a headache. Obviously, delays are inherent with construction projects and if detours are necessary, an already-long commute can seem unbearable.

Construction can also result in lives being lost if passing vehicles crash into work zones. These dangers are magnified when construction projects occur on already deadly roads like West Virginia's "Corridor G" area and the Interstates around the Charleston area.

The facts

A survey recently released by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA) reveals that 38 percent of highway construction workers report having a nearby vehicle accidentally enter their work area. Nearly 50 percent of those have endured the frightening experience three or more times in a single construction season.

Interestingly, the AGCA found that the rate of injury is much higher for vehicle occupants who crash into work zones than for the laborers themselves. Car and truck drivers and passengers were injured in nearly half of the work zone auto accidents, while construction workers were hurt roughly 18 percent of the time.

Prevention

When compared to the overall traffic accident rate in the country, road construction work zones happen relatively infrequently. That being said, workers and vehicle occupants are both at high risk for injury when they do occur, so all parties have a responsibility to do what they can to help prevent accidents.

Vehicle operators can:

  • Avoid distracted driving in work zones
  • Lower their speed when approaching and passing through construction areas
  • Pay close attention to the road ahead instead of watching construction activities or equipment happening alongside the vehicle
  • Prepare in advance for delays that might be caused by road work, thus removing the temptation to speed through the area to make up "lost time" (current road construction project information is available on the West Virginia Department of Transportation's website or by calling the Department's traffic information line at 511)

Road construction workers can:

  • Always wear a hardhat on the job site
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing (or reflective tape on their hardhats) to ensure that drivers can see them
  • Clearly mark construction zones with adequate signage and traffic control devices like barriers, barrels, traffic cones, lights or weighted sawhorses
  • Remain safely inside the marked perimeters of the zone at all times when traffic is present

Regardless of whether you are a motorist or a road worker, you have a responsibility to behave as safely as possible in road construction zones. Staying alert could mean staying alive. If you or a loved one was injured in a road construction work zone accident, speak with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options you may have to hold the parties responsible for your injuries accountable.