It’s said that Minnesota has two seasons: winter and road construction. With miles of roadwork underway this summer, that aphorism is proving truer than ever. While highway construction can be annoying, for those who build, maintain and upgrade our infrastructure, the work can be deadly.
Work zones by the numbers
Roadway work zones are dangerous places for workers, drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike. In 2017, a total of 799 people died in work-zone crashes, up more than 2 percent from 2016, even though the number of other fatal crashes decreased.
Between 2011 and 2016, 609 workers died in work zones, accounting for 9 percent of all construction-work deaths. This makes working roadway construction one of the deadliest jobs in the United States.
There are many reasons why work zones remain dangerous despite numerous public-service campaigns and increased fines for traffic violations. Narrowed rights of way, changes in traffic patterns and people speeding to make up for delays are all factors. This makes work zones especially dangerous for workers when large vehicles like pickup trucks, tractor-trailers and busses drive through.
Though work zones will always be dangerous, the Minnesota Department of Transportation advises drivers use the following travel tips to keep everyone safe:
- Avoid distractions like cellphones and stereos
- Obey the lowered work-zone speed limit
- Be patient and factor delays into travel times
- Stay alert and be aware of changes in traffic patterns and lane closures
- Zipper merge when necessary
- Never enter a blocked or marked-off area
- Do not tailgate