With more than 250 road and highway bridges schedule for construction this year in Missouri as well as a plan of improving 5,600 miles of Missouri roadway by the end of 2011, work zone safety becomes a timely and important issue. Just last week a road construction worker was inadvertently struck and sent to the hospital by a recreational vehicle on Highway 71 in Carthage, Missouri. More highway construction means a higher danger of work zone related injuries and deaths.
The Missouri Department of Transportation has designated the week of April 19-23 as Work Zone Safety Awareness Week. Each year, far too many highway workers, drivers and vehicle passengers are killed or seriously injured on Missouri highway construction zone sites. In 2009 13 people were killed in Missouri in highway and road repair work zone accidents. This number is up from 12 fatalities in 2008. The increase in the number of injured in car and truck accidents between 2008 and 2009 is more dramatic with an increase from 599 to 670 or 11%.
Between the years of 2005 and 2009 64 individuals were killed and 4,260 people injured, some seriously in road and highway work zones in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Transportation noted that 15 MoDot workers have been killed in the line of duty.
Pete Rahn, the Director of MoDot stressed the importance of drivers paying attention and obeying the signs in the work zones. According to MoDot, the top 5 contributing factors for work zone related crashes, injuries and deaths in 2009 were inattention, following too closely, improper lane usage or changing of lanes, driving too fast for conditions and failure to yield in that order. The department also reminds us that of the 878 traffic fatalities in 2009, 693 were vehicle occupants, 67 percent of whom were not wearing their seat belts.
“We need drivers to pay attention to highway construction and drive with caution through it to prevent senseless deaths and injuries,” said Rahn. “For the last couple of years though we’ve had increases in both work zone fatalities and injuries, and it’s time motorists realize how serious driving errors in work zones can be for everyone involved.”
Please use extra care around Missouri highway construction zones this year.