High rates of work zone crashes involving large trucks in Florida, Georgia and Texas have earned those states special attention from federal regulators this week as part of a national safety campaign.
Motorists in those states can expect to hear public service announcements and see safety messaging on billboards as they approach work zones Monday through Friday during this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
“Fatal crashes occurring in work zones are both tragic and absolutely preventable,” said FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi.
“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 5% 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.”
In addition to Florida, Georgia and Texas – which generate some of the highest rates of work zone crashes involving large trucks in the country, according to FMCSA – Arkansas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania will be “conducting special activities such as holding educational workshops for commercial vehicle drivers and placing safety signage at weigh stations,” the agency stated, due to the high number of fatal crashes in work zones that occur each year in those states.
FMCSA cited the most recent data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) revealing that deaths in highway work zone crashes increased 11.2% between 2018 and 2019 (757 compared with 842), the largest increase since 2000. The increase between 2018 and 2019 “outpaced the modest 0.3% increase in overall highway construction spending and the 0.8% increase in overall vehicle-miles-traveled nationally,” FMCSA noted.
During the same period, the number of fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks or buses increased 16% while crashes involving a rear-end collision increased 29% and the number of fatal work zone crashes where speed was a factor increased by nearly 40% (see table).
Navigating through work zones is a particular concern for automated driving systems. Embark Trucks, which autonomously hauls freight between its terminals, is sharing work zone information with the Arizona Department of Transportation, pointing out that nearly 1,000 traffic accidents — and about 15 deaths — occur in Arizona work zones every year.
Meanwhile, the number of worker fatalities in road construction sites increased by nearly 9% between 2018 and 2019. FMCSA and FHWA will urge the public to wear orange on Wednesday for a national Go Orange Day to show their support for highway workers.
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