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Work Zone Accidents

Work Zone Accidents

Work zone injuries continue to rise every year.

Work zones and reckless drivers a bad combo.

Texas has more miles of roads and highways than any other state. It is also among the fastest-growing states in the country. Keeping Texas’ roads in good condition and expanding roadway infrastructure to keep pace with growth takes a lot of work. Work zones are a familiar site in Texas. Drivers who are in a hurry to reach their destination may let out an impatient groan as they see the orange cones, barrels, and signs that mark a road construction project. But it is the responsibility of every driver to keep work zones safe.

Unfortunately, not every driver takes this responsibility seriously. Despite heavy fines for work zone traffic violations, Texas work zone crashes and deaths continue to rise year after year. Virtually all work zone crashes are preventable if people slow down and give their full attention to what’s going on around them. Failure to do so can result in harm to motorists, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and construction workers.

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Texas Work Zone Crashes On The Rise

The number of Texas work zone fatalities keeps on increasing. From 2019 to 2020, work zone fatalities increased 9% to 186. And from 2020 to 2021, this number rose again to 244 lives claimed in work zones—a 33% increase over the previous year.

TxDOT called these statistics “alarming” in an April 2022 press release, which notes the following trends:

  • Of the 244 work zone fatalities, 195 were motorists or motor vehicle passengers, 38 were pedestrians, 4 were bicyclists, and 3 were roadside construction workers.
  • More than 800 people were seriously injured in 2021 work zone crashes.
  • The leading causes of work zone crashes are speeding and driver inattention.
  • Rear-end collisions are the most common type of work zone accidents.

In 2020, according to TxDOT figures, there was a total of 22,250 Texas work zone crashes. Around 550 of these crashes were deemed “serious crashes.” In addition to nearly 200 fatalities, these crashes resulted in 679 serious injuries and nearly 9,000 total injuries.

TxDOT notes that work zone driving conditions can be challenging due to added congestion, slow-moving heavy equipment, temporary barriers, and vehicles making sudden and frequent stops. The agency gives these recommendations for safely navigating work zones:

  • Slow down, follow posted speed limits, and drive to the conditions.
  • Pay attention and avoid distractions. Work zones change constantly and heavy equipment can enter a driver’s lane with little or no warning.
  • Keep an eye out for road crews, who have limited safety gear.
  • Don’t follow too closely, in case you need to stop suddenly.
  • Plan your route ahead of time and, if you can’t find an alternate route around construction, allow extra time for road construction.

Speeding, distracted driving, and other traffic violations can result in fines of up to $2,000 for drivers who cause a crash that injures a road worker in a Texas construction zone. Similar fines can result when drivers do not comply with the state’s Mover Over or Slow Down law, which requires drivers to move over one lane or slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit when they approach a TxDOT vehicle that is stopped on the roadside with its flashing lights activated. All traffic fines double in Texas work zones.

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Texas Road Work Is a Big Job

Texas has an estimated 314,000 miles of roads and highways, according to the Texas Comptroller. That’s more than any other state. Roughly one-quarter of these roadways are part of the state highway system, which is maintained by TxDOT. The rest are maintained by local governments. The Texas Department of Insurance states that, at any given time, there are nearly 40,000 road construction workers on 1,000 miles of roadway projects across the state.

More Residents = More Vehicle Miles Traveled

Commercial and passenger traffic both cause wear and tear to Texas’ roads. Daily vehicle miles traveled have increased in Texas by 15.5% from 2010 to 2016—a difference of about 100 million miles. The main drivers of this traffic increase were population grown and an uptick in economic activity. Texas’ population could double by 2050, says the Comptroller, to over 54 million, adding to the need for roadway expansion and improvement.

More Vehicle Miles Traveled = More Traffic

As Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio continue to grow by leaps and bounds, these cities and their suburbs will be looking to upgrade their roads and highways to cut down on traffic congestion.

The typical resident of these Texas cities loses dozens of hours each year to traffic congestion. Houston was recently rated by geolocation technology company TomTom as having the worst traffic congestion in Texas, with drivers losing an average of 46 hour per year due to traffic. In Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio, drivers lose an average of 39 hours and 36 hours per year, respectively, due to traffic.

Comparing this data to 2014 TxDOT data, traffic congestion in Texas cities has actually gotten better over the years. This could be explained by the large number of road construction projects across Texas. A look at Dallas construction projects shows that, in April 2021 alone, there were $60 million worth of completed TxDOT road works citywide. In May 2021, TxDOT had 23 planned roadway projects in the Dallas District, including signal improvements, concrete repairs, sidewalk improvements, and bridge replacements.

TxDOT recommends in its Texas Transportation Plan 2040 that the state invest $396 billion—or about $15 billion annually—to expand, maintain, and repair Texas roadways. Funding for road work comes primarily from state fuel taxes, auto registration fees, and federal highway funds. The rest comes from approved ballot measures Proposition 1 and Proposition 7.

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Who Is Liable For a Work Zone Accident?

Based on TxDOT work zone crash data, motorists and their passengers are the most likely to be involved in a Texas work zone crash, and the most likely scenario is a rear-end collision caused by another motorist who is speeding or distracted. If this is the case, then it would be treated like any other auto accident. The injured driver/passengers would file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

But there are also situations where the construction company or a subcontractor could be held liable for a work zone crash. For example, suppose there’s a road construction project that requires closing a lane of the interstate. There might be no warning or inadequate warning of the lane closure, such as an insufficient number of reflective drums or not enough signs cautioning drivers about the closed lane. The police might take witness statements confirming that there was confusion about the lane being closed.

In this scenario, it might be possible to file a lawsuit against the general contractor in charge of the roadway project. A subcontractor responsible for pavement milling, traffic control, striping, utility work, trucking, or some other construction task could also be held liable, depending on the details of the crash.

Scenarios where a contractor or subcontractor could be liable for the accident include:

  • Failure to adequately warn drivers of the lane closure
  • The use of inadequate warning devices to warn of the lane being closed
  • Noncompliance with known work zone safety standards
  • Failure to update the traffic control plan to suit roadway conditions

Even though TxDOT or another government entity might own the roadway where the accident occurred—and hire the contractor for the project—government entities typically have legal immunity from injury lawsuits. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to sue them, but it’s very challenging, and there may also be limits on how much an injury victim can recover from the government.

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Injured Road Worker Lawsuits

When a roadside construction worker is injured, they are entitled to workers’ compensation. But if their injuries were caused by a third party (like a distracted motorist who swerved out of their lane and struck the worker), they may be able to file an injury lawsuit in addition to collecting workers’ comp.

The same could be true if they are injured by a third party like a subcontractor. Workers’ compensation law prevents lawsuits against an employer, but as long as the party that caused the injuries does not work for the same company as the injured construction worker, a third party injury lawsuit might be possible.

Texas Work Zone Car Accident Attorneys

Work zones are hazardous environments full of workers on foot, heavy machinery, and a steady stream of traffic going through the middle of it. They are accidents waiting to happen. Even if you do your part to safely navigate a work zone, other drivers and workers could make a mistake that causes you to get hurt.

Thousands of Texans are injured every year in work zone car accidents. While a construction project can ultimately make a road safer, the project itself might be an accident waiting to happen. When a work zone accident does happen, don’t wait to speak with a lawyer. Crucial mistakes early in the claims process can jeopardize your future. You only have one shot to get this right. For help with your car, truck or 18-wheeler case, call us at 1-800-505-1414 or send us a message.

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