ROAD CONSTRUCTION AHEAD: Work Zone Crashes in a COVID-19 World


Construction and work zones near or on roads have been susceptible to reckless drivers for years. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic entailed a decrease in road traffic, which sparked the idea that there would be safer working environments for construction workers. However, over the past year, numbers in work zone crashes are continuing to increase. This phenomenon poses many questions, problems, and solutions to drivers and workers alike.  

According to a survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America on highway work zone dangers, 60% of highway contractors reported vehicle collisions in work zones over the past year. This is an alarming percentage that leads us to find the root of such careless driving: distractions. A new study conducted by the University of Missouri College of Engineering revealed that distracted drivers are 29 times more likely to crash into a highway work zone. Therefore, it is evident that the dangers of distraction behind the wheel may be a direct cause of the alarming rates of road crashes in work zones.  

A recent Pew Charitable Trusts report shared the heartbreaking stories of work zone crashes’ effect on workers last year. One of these was the death of a 44-year-old traffic control flagger on March 27, 2020. The collision occurred in Alexander County, North Carolina when a car struck and killed the flagger. Another fatality occurred just a few months later to a 59-year-old construction worker directing traffic on June 9, 2020. A car driver was distracted and speeding through the work zone, hitting the worker fatally. On August 10, 2020, a 57-year-old state transportation worker when his maintenance vehicle was hit by a semi-truck in Henry County, Iowa. These tragic incidents could have all been prevented had the drivers paid full attention to the road. 

Thankfully, federal and state governments are working to address and solve this devastation. New technology, such as wearables, notify construction workers when motor vehicles pose a hazard and are currently under development. However, contractors and officials stand by the best solution for construction zone crashes being distraction-free driving. Stronger legislation against distracted driving needs to keep being implemented in order to truly promote safety in work zones. 


Construction workers are working diligently to build a safer and more efficient society for us each and every day. We must do our part as drivers to support these individuals and protect their safety.


This article was written by Harini Senthilkumar, Journalism Committee Intern