The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is attempting to bring awareness to driving extra cautiously in work zones, especially in the time of the coronavirus pandemic where such injuries have been exacerbated.
An average person may be inclined to believe that COVID-19 has reduced injuries on the road. The truth is that with fewer people on the road to look out for, drivers have become more reckless in their driving. In some cases this has increased the number of accidents per mile traveled, but in others it is a direct increase regardless of fewer vehicles traveling.
One such example is highway work zone fatalities, an issue that predominantly affects men. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports that in 2019, highway work zone fatalities were 757, and that 2020 had 842. This over eleven percent increase is the highest in such fatalities since the turn of the century, and does not even account for non-fatal injuries.
Meera Joshi of the FMCSA says that truckers have a disproportionate responsibility in causing the problem. “I am especially concerned that large trucks continue to have a disproportional involvement in fatal crashes occurring in work zones – 33% – when large trucks comprise roughly five percent of vehicular traffic. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted, slow down, obey the signs and the instructions of flaggers and be courteous and safe by giving every vehicle extra space. Highway workers equally depend on you for their safety.” This problem is further compounded that because of a big rig’s massive weight, a road worker is significantly less likely to survive than if instead hit by a sedan.
Six states that have the highest proportion of these deaths (Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Texas) will have additional signage at road work areas to bring further awareness to the issue.
The FMCSA and FHWA are coming together to urge the public to wear orange on April 28th, the middle of the Week, to bring further awareness of the issue nationwide. While this may be a grandstand, the first step to a public health resolution is making people aware that a phenomenon exists.
There is a reason why traffic fines are doubled in work zones beyond just trying to generate additional revenue for governments. When driving in these areas, make sure to drive slowly and carefully to avoid adding to the statistics.