As summertime travel and highway construction work picks up, the roadways and the shoulders of roads in Metro Atlanta and across Georgia turn into temporary workplaces for road workers. Road construction workers are highly vulnerable to injury or death in work zone car accidents.
Work zones are the location of numerous motor vehicles accidents because of traffic slow downs and sudden lane shifts and also pedestrian accidents involving road workers struck by passing vehicles. Georgia recorded 20 highway work zone fatalities in our state in 2014, including one GDOT contractor, according to a Georgia Department of Transportation news release.
Georgia DOT says it will conduct numerous road construction and maintenance projects this summer, its busiest construction period of the year. Construction projects on major highways throughout the state will lead to slowdowns and delays – especially during weeknights and weekends.
GDOT says it will try to make summer road construction as non-disruptive for motorists as possible. It will:
- Limit lane closures to times of lighter traffic volume: overnights Monday through Thursday (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.) and weekends (from 9 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Monday).
- Try to limit lane closures in Metro Atlanta to a maximum of two consecutive miles, with no uninterrupted lane closures for two adjoining projects.
But GDOT advises that scheduled construction activities can change at any time due to emergencies, road repairs that require immediate attention, or inclement weather. In these cases, emergency lane closures may be necessary outside the designated times.
As a motorist, the safety of those who work in road construction zones is in many ways up to you. How motorists drive through work zones affects other drivers and passengers. Many work zone accidents are caused by one driver’s negligence affecting nearby vehicles and/or workers.
For example, in March, according to the GDOT news release, a Georgia DOT sign shop crew was placing raised pavement markers along Highway 84 in Lowndes County when the buffer vehicle following behind them was struck by a tractor-trailer, which caused a chain-reaction crash.
Most of those killed in highway work zones (66 percent) are motorists, not workers, according to GDOT. Drivers’ speed and inattention are the primary causes of work zone accidents. Both are carelessness and are preventable.
The GDOT offers 10 tips for driving safely in work zones:
- Expect the unexpected. New work zones may spring up overnight and established ones may change.
- Don’t speed. Under Georgia law, a person convicted of exceeding the speed limit in a work zone can be fined up to $2,000 and sentenced to up to 12 months in jail, or both.
- Don’t tailgate. Rear-end accidents are the most common type of automotive collision, particularly in work zones.
- Stay alert and minimize distractions. Remember that texting while driving is illegal in Georgia, and all cell phone use is prohibited for drivers younger than 18 and school bus drivers (including hand-held and hands-free).
- Obey road crew flaggers and pay attention to signs.
- Keep up with traffic in the work zone (no slowing down and rubbernecking).
- Know before you go. Call 511 or visit 511ga.org before getting into your car.
- Be patient and remain calm in slowed or stopped traffic.
- Wear a seatbelt for the most reliable protection should a crash occur.
- Remember that Georgia’s Move Over Law requires drivers to change lanes or slow down and be prepared to stop when encountering a stationary emergency vehicle flashing emergency lights – including at highway work zones. Violations of the law may lead to a fine of up to $500.
If you have been involved in an accident in a road work zone caused by another motorist, contact a Georgia car accident lawyer who can provide a no-obligation review of your legal options.