More Construction Work Zone Distracting Fatalities

While road construction-related deaths were in a declining trend from 2008-2015, 2016 saw a 7 percent rise in fatalities. Segmented 2017 data shows fatalities have both risen again or have lowered significantly, on a state by state basis, with varying factors at play in each region.

Reasons for the growth in road construction fatalities have been attributed to distracted driving, speeding, increased traffic, and increased road construction projects on a national level.

According to The National Safety Council, the overall traffic fatality rates are at record highs for the second year in a row. These numbers continue to grow despite increased vehicle safety measures including collision mitigation systems.

  • Of the 765 road construction zone deaths in 2016, 143 were workers themselves.
  • The driver or passenger of the vehicle is more likely to die in a work zone related crash than a worker.
  • 30 to 40 percent of these crashes are rear-end collisions in recent years.
  • Of the 3300 people killed in road work zones over the past 5 years, at least 500 were directly attributed to distracted driving.

States, where these numbers have risen again in 2017, are still struggling with how to effectively address these statistics.

Iowa saw an overall decrease in vehicular deaths in 2017, but in road work zones specifically, the number of fatalities is still on a sharp rise for the second year.

In Texas, construction zone deaths increased 9% from 2016 to 2017.

In Iowa, these fatalities decreased by 5% where the state took measures to launch a statewide education campaign and reduce their total number of road construction projects. They have also launched an Illinois Strategic Highway Safety Plan to further reduce these numbers.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidelines for both the type and implementation of traffic control devices used in road work zones. These signs are designed to provide traveling motorists with important messages and guidance about a road construction zone. believes that these traffic control signs are the primary method of moving traffic through road work zones effectively and safely. Traffic control signage contributes to both the protection of road workers and to move drivers safely through a road work zone. This is done by proper setup, to include advanced warning, in and around road work zones. Every situation is different, and much care should be put into the planning phases for the traffic control needs of each job site prior to the start of the project.