AGC: Working for Safer Highway Work Zones

Written by  Stephen E. Sandherr

Road Work

Ask any road builder that you know about the subject of work zone safety and the sad fact is every one of them has a story about a car crashing into one of their job sites. Even worse, most of them have colleagues who were seriously injured or killed in one of those crashes. Now ask any office worker how many colleagues they have lost because a car came crashing into their office space. I am pretty sure the response will be quite different.

As AGC of America’s recently released highway work zone safety survey makes clear, too many construction workers are at risk of getting injured or killed by vehicles crashing into their work sites. Indeed, 39 percent of contractors reported suffering from cars crashing into their work zones during the past twelve months. And while that is down from a year ago, that is still way too many crashes.

Too many drivers are either still speeding through work zones, not paying close enough attention or are distracted by their phones. Making matters worse is that many states require construction work to take place at night and on weekends. The intention is to mitigate construction’s impact on traffic. But what that means is that a lot of highway work is taking place when highways are more likely to have drivers who are too exhausted, or too intoxicated, to safely operate their vehicles.

Another finding from our survey is that drivers and their passengers are even more at risk during a work zone crash than construction workers. Yet our highway work zones can, and should, be much safer for everyone. The vast majority of contractors responding to our survey made it clear that a greater police presence, more aggressive enforcement and better driver education would all help.

In addition, three out of four contractors said having more positive barriers – including Jersey barriers – separating workers from vehicles would make everyone safer in work zones. Yet the Obama administration has yet to act on an AGC of America-backed measure that was included in each of the last two highway bills that requires federal officials to mandate, and pay for, positive barrier devices along all federally-funded highway work zones.

Apparently the president’s appointees have determined that protecting workers and drivers in work zones isn’t worth the cost. The irony is pretty thick considering this is coming from an administration that has no qualms imposing billions in needless new regulatory burdens on employers. That is why we worked closely with chapters across the country to make a big push at the start of the summer driving season to improve highway work zone safety.

This pre-summer media push was just one part of our comprehensive effort to improve highway work zone safety. In addition, we continue to provide work zone safety training for our members and have long participated in the annual highway work zone safety week that takes place in the early spring. Ultimately, our goal is clear: we want every worker and every driver to make it home safe and sound, every day.

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