The risk of automobile accidents is a fact of life in the 21st Century. In highway construction zones, however, collisions are more likely to occur and more likely to cause catastrophic or fatal injuries. Both commuters and road workers face a heightened risk of injury in highway work zone construction sites.
In the most recent year for which statistics are available, 842 people were killed in construction zone crashes in the U.S., as reported by the Federal Highway Administration of the Department of Transportation (DOT). This number represents an 11.2% increase in work zone fatalities over the previous year. Large trucks were involved in 33% of fatal crashes that occurred in work zones, although they account for only approximately 5% of vehicle traffic, as stated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
In Texas alone, 147 occupants of motor vehicles, 35 pedestrians and bicyclists, and four construction workers were killed in work zones in a recent year, according to the Texas Department of Transportation (TX DOT).
Texas has specific regulations to help prevent highway construction zone accidents. They include:
- Reduced speed limits: Temporary speed limits posted in construction zones take precedence over normal speed limits. Law enforcement officers will double fines for speeding in a work zone.
- Move over/slow down law: All drivers approaching road construction zones, DOT workers, or stopped vehicles with flashing blue or amber lights are required to move a lane over or reduce their speed to 20 mph below the posted speed limit. Violation of this state law could result in fines of up to $2,000.
- Distracted driving: Under the Texas cell phone ordinance, it is illegal to text and drive. Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using cell phones while driving for any purpose.
- Detour laws: Road construction zones are often organized with detours around the part of the road where work is being done. These detours take precedence over any other roadway signs or markings. Drivers in Texas are required to carefully follow detour signs and barriers in work zones.
Negligence of various parties can contribute to fatal construction zone crashes.
- Construction companies contracted to work on roads may be negligent in creating dangerous work zones, failing to post adequate signage, blinding drivers with bright lights, and placing dangerous hazards, such as equipment or debris, in the roadway.
- Large commercial truck drivers and the trucking companies that hire them may be found liable for construction zone accidents. Truck drivers who are fatigued, distracted, speeding, or following too closely, and big rigs with equipment failure due to poor maintenance, can cause fatal construction zone collisions.
- Negligent passenger vehicle drivers may be found liable for work zone accidents when they are distracted, speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or disregarding work zone regulations.
Construction zone accidents can cause fatal injuries, particularly in a collision between a passenger vehicle and a semi tractor-trailer. In Texas, the surviving spouse, children, or parents of the deceased are entitled to file a wrongful death claim for compensation. Surviving family members may claim medical expenses of the deceased, funeral and burial expenses, the value of the deceased person’s lost earnings and benefits, and the value of the comfort and support he or she would have provided.
If you have lost a loved one in a Texas work zone accident, call The Lenahan Law Firm at (214) 295-1008. Our experienced Dallas highway accident attorneys can tell you if you have a case and what damages you may be entitled to claim.