Work Zone Fatalities Hit Record High in 2003

Fri September 26, 2003 - National Edition

A total of 1,181 people were killed during 2002 in roadway construction zone accidents according to federal data recently posted at the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse.

Managed by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association Transportation Development Foundation (ARTBA-TDF) and housed at the Texas Transportation Institute in College Station, the Clearinghouse is world’s largest “cyber-library” ( of information on roadway construction safety “best practices,” laws, regulations, public awareness campaigns, products, training and educational materials.

The data, compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), finds an increase of 102 deaths in roadway work zones, compared to 2001 figures. Since 1997, roadway construction work zone-related fatalities have increased 70 percent.

Texas led the nation in the roadway construction fatalities in 2002 with 192, followed by California (119), Georgia (118), Florida (87), New York (60), North Carolina (47), Arkansas (40), Tennessee (38), Pennsylvania (33) and Alabama (33).

Five states reported only one roadway work zone fatality, including: Alaska, Connecticut, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Utah.

“We are deeply concerned about the number of deaths of motorists and highway workers in the nation’s roadway construction zones,” ARTBA Chairman Tom Hill said. “It is a very serious public health issue. On average, three people die in road construction sites every day. This is unacceptable.”

ARTBA attributes the increase in the number of road construction zones to the growth in projects aimed at repairing and improving the safety of an aging transportation infrastructure network.

Boosting highway investment significantly so that states have adequate resources to address roadway work zone hazards should be a top priority for Congress during the ongoing debate on reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), ARTBA says.

“The transportation construction industry pledges its full support to Congress in helping develop new programs and policies to reverse these trends and reduce the safety hazards associated with roadway construction zones,” Hill said.

ARTBA encouraged motorists to do their part by driving safely through roadway construction zones. The association offered the following tips for drivers:

• Stay alert. Dedicate your full attention to the roadway. Pay close attention. Signs and work zone flaggers save lives.

• Don’t tailgate.

• Don’t speed. Note the posted speed limits in and around the work zone.

• Minimize distractions. Avoid changing radio stations and using mobile phones while driving in work zones.

• Expect the unexpected. Keep an eye out for workers and their equipment.

• Be patient. Remember that work zone crew members are working to improve your future ride.

A state-by-state breakdown of work zone-related fatalities and fatal crashes can be accessed through the Clearinghouse at or via phone at 888/447-5556.

Financial support for Clearinghouse operations is provided by the ARTBA Foundation, the Texas Transportation Institute, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Laborers International Union of North America.