According to Texas Department of Transportation, more than 22,000 traffic crashes occurred in work zones resulting in 186 deaths and 680 people seriously injured in 2020. Those numbers account for a 9% increase in traffic fatalities over the previous year despite the world-wide pandemic that forced a majority of Texans to stay indoors and off the roads. It’s no surprise that work zone accidents account for such a large number of crashes considering that there are over 3,400 active work zones across the state at any given time.
Work zones provide unique and ever-changing challenges for drivers on the road. People often encounter different traffic patterns, narrow lanes, uneven pavement, concrete barriers, increased traffic, and large, slow-moving construction equipment. It’s also incredibly common to have multiple people working just a few feet away from high-speed vehicles. To combat the increased dangers, Texans should keep the following tips in mind to help prevent work zone accidents.
There are usually posted speed limit signs before you encounter a work zone. Slow down and follow the posted speed limit. Always drive to the conditions of the road. If there is more traffic than usual or if weather conditions are bad, drive slower. Don’t forget traffic fines double in work zones when workers are present, and fines can be up to $2,000.
In this day and age, the ability to focus on one task at a time and pressure to multi-task are so strong. We all know that you should never be on your phone while driving but – let’s face it – we see it all the time! A quick glance at the vehicles around you while you’re driving (or better yet while you’re a passenger) will prove that a lot of people are on their phones while driving despite knowing that it isn’t safe. This is even more true when traveling in a work zone. Put your phone away and limit distractions so you can focus on the road. Everything else can wait.
It’s always best to leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you. Rear-end collisions are the most common kind of work zone accidents. In good weather conditions, TxDOT recommends using the two-second rule to determine if you’re leaving enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you. It’s easy to remember - pick a fixed object such as a tree, sign, or building and count the time from when the vehicle in front of you passes it to when your vehicle passes it. If it is less than two seconds, you are too driving close! When driving in bad weather conditions, use the 4-second rule instead.
Remember to keep an eye out for the construction workers! Sometimes it is difficult to see them behind the large equipment and various signage, but they’re there! The only protective gear they wear is a vest, a hard hat, and safety boots. They need to get home safely too!
It’s always smart to take a few seconds before you get on the road to plan your route. Road construction slows things down. Period. Take that into account and leave a bit earlier or take an alternate route if available. It’s so easy to stay up to date with traffic condition and road construction on apps like Waze, Google Maps, and Apple Maps.
If the vehicles are drivable, it is best to move them off the roadway to a safe location. Depending on what is close by, you and the other driver could pull into a gas station, a store parking lot, or even on the shoulder of the road if it is wide enough.
If the vehicles are not drivable, then you need to call 911 to get a police report and a tow truck. Make sure to get out of the vehicle and off the road. The lanes can be rather narrow in work zones and the last thing you what to happen is to be hit by a second vehicle because another driver couldn’t stop in time or didn’t see you.
Without a doubt, the first call you should make after being in a work zone accident is the police. Call 911 and tell them if you need a tow truck or EMS to the scene. If you need a tow truck or EMS, most departments will require a police report and they will send officers to the scene. Depending on how busy they are, the dispatcher, might tell you to simply exchange information and be on your way but if something strange is going on, like the other driver not cooperating, slurring their words, or you feel sudden pain, you need a police report to properly document the accident. It’s one of your strongest pieces of evidence should you decide to pursue a case after the fact. Even if it takes over an hour, the best way to protect yourself is to get the police report.
Another way to protect yourself is to exchange insurance information with all parties involved. The best way to do that typically is to take pictures of their insurance card, their driver’s license, and their license plate. It's also a good idea to keep a mental note until you have time to write it down whether there were any passengers in any of the vehicles and what any of the other parties may have told you about the accident. Occasionally, there might be a witness to the crash. They will come up to you and offer to help, make sure to get their name and phone number so you can get ahold of them later if you run into any problems with the insurance company - which is likely.
These days almost everyone has a camera in their pocket. Use it to protect yourself after an accident! In addition to taking photos of the other driver’s license plate, insurance card, and driver’s license; we also want to get pictures of the property damage to all vehicles, photos of any damage done to other property like guard rails, any skid marks or broken glass on the road, etc. The idea is to capture as much of the scene as possible and to prove that the other driver was in fact that one driving, just in case they decide to later change their story to the insurance company.
If you are injured in a car accident, call the police as soon as it happens! Make sure they send EMS to the scene so you can get the medical attention that you need immediately. Sometimes people don’t start experiencing stiffness or pain until later that day or even the following day after their adrenaline has subsided. If that's the case, don’t hesitate - go to the hospital or urgent care facility right away! It’s important that you get the medical care you need so that you can start feeling better faster and you don’t hurt your chances of recovering from the at-fault party.
The sooner you get a personal injury attorney the better protected you will be! We cannot tell you how many times people call us after trying to handle their claim themselves to realize that they said and did things that permanently damaged their case. Accident attorneys often provide free consultations. It costs you nothing but a phone call to find out your options. If you are a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact McKinney Vos today for a free case evaluation!