Increasing the police presence at highway and transit construction sites nationwide is the best way to cut the hundreds of work zone fatalities that take place every year, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) said April 19. As a result, the group used the start of the annual Work Zone Awareness campaign to call to ask state and local transportation officials to commit to the beefed up presence beginning with this construction season.
“All too often, it takes flashing blue lights to keep drivers from reading their blackberry while speeding through a work zone,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Sadly, warning signs and safety vests offer workers little protection from distracted drivers.”
Sandherr said that while police officers are sometimes posted at construction sites, states currently don’t require their presence as frequently as they should. Meanwhile, over 750 people were killed in accidents in highway work zones in 2008, according to the most recent data. While an estimated 20 percent of the people killed were construction workers, more often than not, drivers and passengers are the ones killed in highway crashes, Sandherr noted.
The head of the trade group noted that association officials were meeting with the U.S. Department of Transportation and members of Congress to ensure that the next highway bill includes measures designed to improve the safety of the nation’s highway and transit work zones. In addition, Sandherr said the national trade group has developed a comprehensive highway worker safety program with Zurich Services Corporation, to instruct employees on the best ways to protect themselves while working on road improvements.
But Sandherr added that contractors lacked the ability to control driver behavior.
“The only safety variable our contractors can’t control is the one driving 60 miles-per-hour right through their work site.”
April 19 to 25 was the Work Zone Awareness safety campaign with the theme “Work Zones Need Our Undivided Attention.” First established in 1999, the campaign is designed to cut the number of work zone fatalities that occur each year.