Cone Zone Dangers Get National Notice
Expect to see a lot of orange along the nation’s freeways this summer as workers repave sections of highway and address road hazards.
Highway construction is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. The Federal Highway Administration reports more than 20,000 workers are injured in road construction work zones nationwide. And the risk of death is seven times higher for highway workers than for average workers in other industries, according to the California Department of Industrial Relations.
“Work zone collisions saddle our state with millions of dollars in unnecessary costs, not to mention the tragic—and preventable—loss of life,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “The children of our workers are proud of their parents and are asking all drivers to help keep workers safe by staying alert in highway work zones.”
More than 1,500 workers died due to incidents at road constructions sites between 2003 and 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau reports an average of 121 road worker deaths per year during that time period.
Texas ranked highest in terms of deaths at road construction sites during that period (171), followed by Florida (104), Pennsylvania (85), Illinois (69), California (69), and Tennessee (62), according to the BLS.
Law enforcement agencies have taken notice and made efforts to address the somber statistics. One tactic sees increased fines and penalties for speeding and at-fault collisions in work zones.
Enforcement campaigns such as “Click It or Ticket” and “Slow for the Cone Zone” have led to a reduction in collisions, injuries and fatalities on California’s highways. Still, work zone collisions continue to burden the state. The most recent data indicates California was saddled with $185 million in economic costs related to such crashes, on top of the loss of life.
In addition to warning drivers about stiff penalties they face in work zones, agencies also appeal to motorists’ humanity by asking them to place themselves in a road worker’s boots.
Years ago, the California Highway Patrol initiated a construction awareness campaign that now runs every year. Billboards and ads with construction employees and their families play a prominent role in the safety campaign.
The Kansas Department of Transportation’s campaign is dubbed “Give ‘Em A Brake” and educates motorists how to identify they’re entering a work zone and what to expect.
An effort by the Colorado Department of Transportation features the widow of a road worker who died in early February after being struck while filling potholes on U.S. Highway 160.
“He was my husband, he was my joy, my life,” Sandra Hamilton said about her late-husband Nolan Olson, who died nine days after the Feb. 2 incident. “I just beg people to pay more attention and be more aware of the souls out there doing their jobs and doing their work.”
The California Department of Transportation urges drivers to proceed with caution while driving in “Cone Zones” this summer. Here’s some of their suggestions:
- Obey the posted speed limits and do not speed in construction zones.
- Keep your eyes on the road. Expect the unexpected.
- Watch for workers; drive cautiously.
- Avoid unnecessary lane changes.
- Don’t use your mobile phones while driving through work zones.
- Turn on your headlights for better visibility.
- Be vigilant while driving through work zones at night.
- Expect delays, especially during peak travel times.
- Keep ample distance between you and the car in front of you.
- Expect lane shifts, and merge when directed to do so.
- Be patient.