Trucks involved in growing share of work zone fatalities

Large trucks were involved in 1/3 of all fatal crashes that occurred in U.S. highway work zones in 2019, just as the country reported a record increase in such accidents.

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration says 842 people were killed in highway work zone crashes in 2019, up 11.2% from the 757 recorded in 2018. It is the largest percentage increase this century.

There was also a 16% increase in the number of fatal work zone crashes involving large trucks or buses, according to the latest data. Work zone crashes involving a rear-end collision were up 29%, while those where speeding was a factor increased 40%.

“Fatal crashes occurring in work zones are both tragic and absolutely preventable,” said U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration deputy administrator Meera Joshi, during the launch of National Work Zone Awareness Week that runs April 26-30.

“I am especially concerned that large trucks continue to have a disproportional involvement in fatal crashes occurring in work zones – 33% – when large trucks comprise roughly 5% of vehicular traffic. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted, slow down, obey the signs and the instructions of flaggers and be courteous and safe by giving every vehicle extra space. Highway workers equally depend on you for their safety.”

Tips for truck drivers

Among the tips being offered to truck drivers:

  • Familiarize yourself with road work before beginning a trip, and use detours to avoid these areas when possible.
  • Reduce speeds when traveling through work zones, paying close attention to signs and signals.
  • Be aware of passenger vehicle drivers who may not be aware of a truck’s blind spots and longer required stopping distances.
  • When approaching lane closures, move into the open lane as soon as possible.
  • Obey posted speeds, avoid distractions, and maintain following distances in work zones, to prevent rear-end crashes.

The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will concentrate its Work Zone Awareness Week efforts in Florida, Georgia, and Texas, which experienced some of the highest rates of work zone crashes involving large trucks. Other outreach efforts will include public service announcements and billboards around work zones.

Arkansas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania will see educational workshops and signage at weight stations.

The regulators are also encouraging the general public to wear orange on Wednesday to show support for highway workers on the job.

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