Our roadways are under constant construction and require continuous maintenance. This roadway construction is collectively referred to as a “work zone.” Work zones disrupt the normal and expected flow of traffic by inserting new risks and hazards in to our commute. As a result, motor vehicle collisions can occur in work zones and cause serious personal injury it innocent drivers. These are five things you should know about work zone collisions.
1. Work Zone Accidents are not Uncommon
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that over 40,000 individuals are injured each year due to work zone motor vehicle collisions. In Georgia, motorists are more likely to be killed in a work zone motor vehicle accident than the roadway workers themselves—75% of work zone fatalities are not members of the work crew. Collisions and fatalities are especially prevalent during warmer months, as it is during this period that roadway construction is at its peak. A work zone motor vehicle accident can take many forms:
- rear-end collisions resulting from slowing traffic or construction vehicles unsafely leaving a work zone;
- sideswipe collisions caused by merging traffic lanes; or
- fixed-object collisions with unsafely placed traffic control devices and/or work zone equipment
2. A Work Zone is Defined by its Characteristics
It may surprise you that there is not a nationally-recognized definition of a “work zone.” Instead, each state is left to define work zones for their respective roadways. While organizations like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) have defined work zone safety standards, there’s no precise checklist as to what constitutes a roadway work zone.
Georgia law essentially states that active, defensive drivers have a limited right to assume that the roadway ahead of them is clear and free from obstruction. If an obstruction is placed unsafely in or around a roadway, proper warning must be provided. However, an obstruction that is open and obvious to a driver is sufficient warning for a driver. A work zone, for purposes of investigating a motor vehicle collision, contains four fundamental sections:
- Advanced-Warning Section: Signs should alert drivers to an upcoming work zone, potential changes in the roadway, and adjusted speed limitations.
- Transition Section: Traffic control devices (i.e. cones, barriers, lights, signs, etc.) are used to safely redirect traffic around a work zone.
- Work Space Section: These areas should provide for the needs and safety of the construction crew. This can be done through additional signs to warn drivers of changes is traffic flow, optional roadway buffers, equipment storage areas, and entrances/exits that allow construction vehicles to safely enter and leave the work zone.
- Termination Section: Indicated by signs and traffic control devices, the termination section is the area where the work zone safely ends, and normal traffic for the roadway begins.
In Georgia, speeding in a properly labeled roadway work zone is illegal and punished criminally. In short, a person convicted of exceeding the speed limit in a work zone can be fined up to $2,000 and/or sentenced up to 12 months in jail.
3. Motor Vehicle Accidents in Work Zones typically have Common Causes
Work zone accidents can originate from one or several of many potential causes. Acts of nature, such as adverse weather conditions, can cause a work zone accident due to diminished visibility and unsafe driving conditions. Negligent drivers can also cause a collision due to common unsafe driving habits: tailgating, texting, “rubbernecking,” speeding, failure to obey direction, or driver stress or frustration. However, the conditions surrounding the work zone are also likely to be a precipitating cause of a motor vehicle collision. Generally, speaking unsafe conditions are created by contractors, work crew members, or engineers who violate the proper safety regulation, either due to negligence or improper training. These unsafe conditions can manifest themselves in several ways:
- Poorly labeled detours;
- Inadequate or Confusing Warnings;
- Insufficient Flagmen;
- Missing or incorrect speed limit postings;
- Inadequate lighting;
- Failure to replace manhole covers;
- Potholes or lack of road maintenance;
- Uneven Pavement;
- Improper slopes or grades that cause water to pool;
- Missing barriers, guardrails, or dividers;
- Insufficient tapering of merging lanes on entrance and exit ramps;
- Shoulders that drop off abruptly at the side of the highway;
- Narrowed lanes;
- Insufficient lane and roadway markings, including lane divisions;
- Untrimmed foliage hiding signs and signals;
- Equipment Malfunctions that create road hazards;
- Vehicles improperly entering and leaving work sites;
- Poorly secured loads; and/or
- Gravel, oil, and other substances and debris on the roadway.
4. Several Entities could be Responsible for your Injuries
If you’ve been injured due to a motor vehicle accident in a work zone, several parties could be partially or wholly responsible for your injuries. In other words, the negligence of one individual (i.e. work crew supervisor) may have led to the foreseeable negligence of another person (i.e. a careless driver). Potential responsible parties could include:
- Construction Contractors
- Construction Workers;
- Trucking Companies;
- Engineering Firms;
- City, County, State, and/or Federal Government Entities;
- Driver of another Vehicle; and/or
- Safety Inspection Companies.
It’s important to obtain experienced legal representation in order to avoid misplaced liability by properly pursuing compensation from the responsible party.
5. Experienced Representation is Important
An experienced work zone accident attorney can do more than advocate your position against potentially liable parties. An experienced attorney can provide a prompt investigation of your collision and your injuries to preserve your chances at identifying the responsible parties. Without an experienced attorney
- evidence can be lost or destroyed,
- traffic control devices can be altered,
- roadway hazards can be corrected or destroyed through the construction process, and
- potential witnesses memories will fade over time.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a work zone collision, our attorneys can provide you a free consultation at no obligation. Avoiding misplaced liability is important for protecting your rights and restoring your life, so call us today at 1-800-641-0098 if you have questions.