How Are Highway Construction Accidents Mitigated in California?

Traffic jam from car accident on major highway

Highway construction zones present risks for motorists and workers. Mitigating these risks is important for reducing the number of serious and fatal accidents that occur in highway construction zones each year. So, how are highway construction accidents mitigated in California?

Among all potential hazards on public roads, highway construction zones present some of the greatest risks. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the number of workers killed in highway construction zones is, “more than twice the combined total for all other industries.” When you add in serious and fatal injuries suffered by motorists, the toll is even more substantial. So, this begs the question: How are California highway construction accidents mitigated?

How are California Highway Construction Accidents Mitigated in California? Tips from the FHA

Each year, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) recognizes National Work Zone Awareness Week. For 2020, the theme was, “Safe Work Zones for All: We Can Do It”. As part of National Work Zone Awareness Week 2020, the FHA identified the following as ways to protect both workers and road users:

  • Be Prepared – “With knowledge of active work zones, you can better plan your trip. Change your start time or, if possible, find alternative routes that avoid work zones altogether.”
  • Wear Your Seatbelt – “Seatbelts . . . are your best defense in a crash.” By wearing seatbelts, drivers and passengers can significantly reduce their risk of suffering serious and fatal injuries.
  • Avoid Distractions – “Watch the road and not your phone.” Drivers need to be paying attention to the road in order to know when they are approaching construction zones.
  • Stay Alert Behind the Wheel – “Be aware of all activity occurring around you.” In addition to avoiding distractions, this means remaining focused on the task at hand and not driving if you are too drowsy or fatigued to do so safely.
  • Slow Down and Don’t Tailgate – “In 2018, 21 percent of fatal work zone crashes involved rear-end collisions.” Speeding and tailgating can be especially dangerous in and around highway construction zones.
  • Heed Construction Zone Warnings – Pay attention to all warning signs, and merge when cones indicate that it is time to do so. Also, remember that “[f]laggers are there to get you safely through the work zone.”
  • Watch Out for Workers – “Every year, workers are fatally injured by traveling vehicles in work zones.” Drivers have a responsibility not only to avoid injuring other motorists, but also to avoid injuring highway construction zone workers.
  • Move Over for Flashing Lights – “When you see passing work crews and official vehicles with flashing warning lights, move over to allow them to pass.” Not only is this important for mitigating accidents in highway construction zones, it is also the law.
  • Drive Defensively Around Construction Trucks and Equipment – “Large vehicles have a slower reaction time.” All drivers need to keep this in mind and make sure they do not put truck drivers in dangerous positions.
  • Protect Everyone – “Be respectful of workers and fellow drivers.” Highway construction zones can be dangerous for everyone, but drivers can do their part to ensure that no unnecessary tragedies occur.

How are Highway Construction Accidents Mitigated in California? Guidance from OSHA

While these are important tips for drivers, there are steps that state and local road authorities and their contractors need to take as well. As outlined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), some of the ways that these entities can help reduce the number of serious and fatal California highway construction accidents include:

  • Having a Traffic Control Plan – “There must be a traffic control plan for the movement of vehicles in areas where there are also workers conducting other tasks. Drivers, workers on foot, and pedestrians must be able to see and understand the routes they are to follow.”
  • Posting Signs – Before construction begins, signs should be posted that adequately alert drivers of the existence of the highway construction zone and that provide adequate directions for maintaining a safe flow of traffic. Government agencies and contractors should also post signs for internal construction zone traffic control.
  • Using Traffic Control Devices – “Standard traffic control devices, signals, and message boards will instruct drivers to follow a path away from where work is being done.” Flaggers can also assist with controlling traffic, particularly when traffic can only flow in one direction.
  • Installing Barriers and Other Protections – “[B]arriers, crash cushions, and truck-mounted attenuators are available to limit motorist intrusions into the construction work zone.” These also serve to identify construction zones so that drivers can slow down and change lanes as necessary.
  • Installing Temporary Lighting – Highway construction zones should be well-lit so that they are visible to motorists and so that workers can do their jobs safely. Flaggers stations should also be illuminated, though “[g]lare affecting workers and motorists should be controlled or eliminated.”
  • Providing Adequate Training – Adequate training is essential for mitigating the risk of California highway construction zone accidents. This includes training workers on how to properly identify, protect, and illuminate construction zones, as well as providing training on safe highway construction zone work practices.

While these are some of the primary methods of reducing risk for workers and drivers in highway construction zones, there is much more to the question of, “How are California highway construction accidents mitigated?” Local, state, and federal regulations establish requirements for highway construction zone safety; and, beyond slowing down and paying attention, drivers need to do everything they can to avoid creating unnecessary risks.

Ultimately, if everyone does their part, the number of serious and fatal California accidents in highway construction zones can be reduced significantly. But, it truly takes everyone’s understanding and involvement, as even one seemingly-minor mistake or split-second lapse in judgment can have a lifetime of consequences. Need more information? Learn more by contacting a knowledgeable lawyer through now.

Were You Injured in a Highway Construction Zone Accident?

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