Everyone in the Springfield area remembers the time last year when someone told them not to go to work or school anymore. For more than a year, people throughout the U.S. spent all or most of their time at home. Some of us are still working remotely, but Illinois’ highways and city streets are slowly returning to normal traffic levels as more and more people return to their daily commutes.
Last year, as relatively few people were driving, state departments of transportation across the country tried to make the best of a bad situation by scheduling extra road construction projects. Among other things, the lack of traffic would mean that road crews would be safer than usual while working.
At least, that was what officials and road construction companies thought. Unfortunately, the truth turned out to be the opposite.
Most road work companies report serious traffic collisions
A recent survey of construction companies revealed that their workers were in near-constant danger in 2020. Sixty percent of the surveyed businesses reported cars crashing into at least one of their worksites last year. While this data is not official, the feeling in the industry is that auto accidents at road construction sites went up in 2020, despite the reduced traffic volume.
The answer could have to do with the behavior of the remaining drivers on the roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that traffic fatalities went up seven percent last year, even though drivers covered 13 percent fewer miles compared with 2019. The agency believes that emptier roads tempted negligent drivers into speeding, which caused more accidents The Pew Charitable Trusts issued a report suggesting that speeding was a big factor in road construction workers getting caught in car crashes too. They noted several incidents where a driver tore through a construction zone at more than 100 miles per hour.
Road construction workers are very vulnerable to reckless drivers. A collision can kill or permanently disable them. Even a relatively “minor” incident can force them out of work for months.