The start of summer is the official kick-off for vacation and road trip season for most, but for those who work tirelessly to keep our roads in good driving condition, it can mean months of danger.
Construction season ramps up in Massachusetts after Memorial Day once the risk of frost and cold weather has passed, and this concentration of road work generally lasts into fall. It’s a relatively small window of time for road work, and yet hundreds of crashes occur each year in work zones, putting the lives of construction workers at serious peril.
The statistics are staggering: There were over 700 work zone crashes in 2016 alone, according to Massachusetts authorities. 860 work zone crashes were reported by state police in 2015. And just last month, a state police cruiser was struck in a construction zone in Burlington, according to 22News.
Many of these accidents are attributed to risky behaviors, such as distracted driving, speeding, and driving under the influence, which become even more catastrophically dangerous in road work zone sites. Others can be attributed to simple carelessness and lack of concern for the lives of road workers.
Clearly, our state has a serious construction work zone problem. That’s why the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has pledged to take action by rolling out new safety initiatives this season.
MassDOT’s Work Zone Safety Plan
The following measures being pursued by MassDOT have the support of many in the state, including Governor Charlie Barker.
“Our first priority is safety and we encourage everyone using our roadways to drive in a responsible manner,” explained Governor Charlie Baker in a press release. “We want drivers and work zone employees to all get home safely which means speed limits must be observed and followed on approach to work zones and travelers must keep their eyes on the road to follow signage and see work activities ahead.”
Blue LED Lights
MassDOT has installed blue LED lights at certain construction zones. These flashing lights were installed to slow drivers down by making them think police are ahead. The flashing blue of the LED lights is similar to the strobing lights found on the rooftops of police cruisers during emergencies.
MassDOT also hopes to install temporary rumble strips at the start of work zones.
Rumble strips are generally used to increase driver awareness of upcoming conditions — like upcoming construction and hazardous conditions — and encourage the driver to reduce their speed, according to the American Road & Transportation Builder’s Association. They work to alert motorists by creating loud noise and vibration as the car drives over them.
Rumble strips are also sometimes used on roads where drowsy driving is rampant as a measure to wake up sleeping drivers and make them safely pull over. These strips can be permanent fixtures of a road or temporary, like the ones proposed by MassDOT for work zones.
According to Morgan & Morgan, Many in the state hope that these portable rumble strips could be part of the solution to Massachusetts’s work zone accident problem.
“I do think that would help because you’d feel the vibration of the rumble strip, and it would cause you to slow down automatically. That way you would already be slowing down, and entering the work zone in a safe manner,” explained Judy Crowell, a resident of Springfield, to 22News.
You Can Do Your Part to Keep Workers Safe Too
Whether these measures will help to reduce work zone accidents or not is yet to be seen, but that doesn’t mean Massachusetts road workers depend solely on their success. Everyone is capable of doing their part to reduce accidents in work zones, and it starts with motorists brushing up on safe, defensive driving.
The next time you drive through a road work zone, remember these tips from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration:
- Stay alert and eliminate distractions by not eating, drinking, adjusting the radio, or using your smartphone while driving.
- Don’t tailgate. Keep a safe distance from other vehicles in case other motorists must stop suddenly due to construction conditions.
- Follow the speed limit. Absolutely never speed in work zones. It’s not only dangerous for road workers and fellow motorists, but moving traffic violations in work zones are doubled in our state, according to MassDOT.
- Merge into your intended lane before reaching road work zones and only change lanes if and when pavement markings permit it.
- Always follow the instructions from flaggers — they’re trained to keep both motorists and road workers safe in work zones.
When Workers Are At-Risk of Injury
Workers in the construction industry face danger every single day, but construction isn’t the only occupation where workers are injured. Simply put, any worker can get hurt on the job if workplace safety measures are not adhered to, regardless of whether they work in a construction zone or in a cubicle.
If you were hurt on the job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation, regardless of whether you were at-fault for your injury. If you’re wrongfully denied benefits, it may be time to call an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to fight for you.