While often a source of headaches for Panama City commuters, construction is a necessary part of a driving-oriented society. Repair work helps maintain existing roadways and make changes to improve highways and other parts of our state's infrastructure. However, when people fail to take extra precautions, a nuisance can become much more dangerous and lead to a construction zone accident.
WJHG reported on a serious and deadly construction zone resident in Okaloosa County earlier this month. The construction zone was operating on State Road 85 in the area south of Katherine Street just before midnight on Tuesday when a pickup truck drifted into the active work area. 56-year-old Frank Thomas Donson, a construction worker from Pensacola, was hit by the truck and pushed into a steel roller machine. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Donson died at the scene. The driver of the truck, 35-year-old Michael David Stull of Fort Walton Beach, was critically injured when he crashed into the steel roller after hitting the worker. Officials are still investigating the incident, and charges are reportedly pending against Stull.
Construction zones are potentially hazardous for both workers and the motorists who pass through the work areas. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 716 fatal crashes occurred in construction and maintenance works zones nationwide in 2008. The number did drop the following year, with 667 work zone fatalities in 2009. Florida joined Texas and California as the three states that reported the highest number of work zone fatalities. Florida also ranked second, behind Texas, in the number of worker fatalities per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are a number of precautions that can help improve work zone safety for both workers and vehicles passing through construction areas. Here are four useful tips:
Failure to obey the posted work zone speed limit is the most common factor in construction zone accidents. The posted speeds are intended to keep everyone safe while moving traffic through the area. Given the enhanced danger of speeding in a work area, speeding fines are typically doubled in active work zones.
Signs, signals, and other traffic direction in work zones are there to help the driver be prepared for changes associated with road construction. This may be especially important when the work zone is in an area a driver passes through regularly, since we all tend to be a bit on auto-pilot during our regular commute and need to be alert to changed conditions.
Driver inattentiveness is always dangerous and that danger is compounded in work zones. Construction vehicles can be slow-moving, have blind spots, and have a limited ability to react to other traffic. Workers are very vulnerable since they are often in close proximity to traffic and the sound of heavy equipment can limit their ability to hear other vehicles.
High-speed or last minute merging can cause dangerous pile-ups, especially when lane size is reduced and vehicles that have already merged may need to slow or stop to respond to construction conditions.
We believe in preventing accidents and encourage everyone to work together to ensure that workers and travelers are safe in construction areas. We also believe in helping victims recover money damages after a crash. If you have been injured by someone else's negligent driving, please call our Panama City construction zone injury attorney for a free consultation about your legal rights.