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Why extra caution in highway work zones is crucial

New Jersey drivers often encounter areas along our roads and interstates where construction is being done. It’s easy to get frustrated, but slowing down, following any directions you’re given and being cautious is key.

Thousands of highway work zone crashes occur every year. They can lead to property destruction, injuries and even death. As we discussed here recently, the tragic accident that seriously injured comedian Tracy Morgan and others and killed one man occurred in a work zone on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration tracks work zone accidents. According to the FHA, the majority of these crashes involve only damage to property. Nonetheless, in the 2010 data provided on the FHA website, 576 people were killed as a result of vehicle accidents in work zones.

The FHA references a detailed report published in 2009 on work zone crashes that includes data on fatalities. While obviously some of these fatalities resulted from accidents involving workers and equipment, the study found that 80 percent of people killed in highway work zones were drivers and passengers in vehicles.

A closer look at the fatalities in 2008 found that failure to wear a seat belt, speeding and alcohol were among the most common factors. As you may remember from our discussion of the Tracy Morgan crash, the first two of these were indeed factors.

The good news, however, is that between 2002 and 2010, highway work zone fatalities declined by more than 50 percent. That’s more than twice the rate of decline in overall highway fatalities during that same period.

As motorists, we all need to be extremely careful when driving in and around work zones. We need to look out not only for the workers, equipment and obstacles in those zones, but for other drivers who may not be as cautious as we are. If you are injured or a loved one dies as the result of another driver’s negligence around a work zone, you have every right to explore your legal options to hold the at-fault driver responsible.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration, “Facts and Statistics – Work Zone Injuries and Fatalities,” accessed Aug. 25, 2015

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