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Road Construction Is Nonstop in Illinois, and So Are Work Zone Accidents

There’s an old saying that there are only two seasons in Illinois – winter and road construction. Others remark that the state flag of Illinois is actually an orange construction caution flag.

Exaggerated as these sayings are, there is at least a bit of truth to them: Road construction is a constant part of life in Illinois, especially in the Chicagoland area. While this shows that the state is committed to road upkeep, the constant presence of roadway work zones has an unfortunate side effect. Every year, many motorists and road construction workers are injured in Illinois work zone accidents. A look at the numbers reveals a shocking incidence of accidents and injuries:

  • 4,300-plus – How many work zone accidents occur on Illinois roadways each year
  • 1,000-plus – How many injuries, many of them severe or fatal, that occur in those accidents
  • 12,000plus – People (including drivers, passengers, road construction workers and others) involved in those accidents in some way
  • First and Second – City streets/roads and unmarked rural roads are the first and second most common places for work zone crashes to occur
  • 25 percent – The share of police-reported traffic accidents that are partially or totally caused by distracted driving (such as texting while driving)

Source: Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT)

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a work zone accident, be sure to seek medical attention and legal advice as soon as possible.

This page will still be here to provide you with more information at a later date, but right now you must focus on protecting your health and preserving your legal rights.

Fatalities in Work Zone Accidents: Two Statistics You’ll Believe, One That Will Shock You

A look at fatal work zone accidents reveals a variety of trends – some expected, others quite surprising. These first two are not that far from what you may expect:

  • Wednesday – The most common day for fatal work zone crashes to occur (24 percent of all crashes). This is followed by Friday (20 percent) and Saturday (20 percent).
  • Noon to 4 p.m. – The deadliest time of day; 28 percent of all fatal work zone accidents occur during this time.

But this next one is likely something you didn’t think of:

10-to-1 – Motorists are the victims of construction accident fatalities at a nearly 10-to-1 rate compared with construction workers.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

How can that be? It seems like road workers would naturally have a higher fatality rate, as they are not in vehicles. Any collision with a car is likely to cause serious injuries to these workers, so why does this statistic seem so shockingly out of proportion?

The answer: Work zone fatality statistics take into account any accident that occurs in a work zone, not just those that occur near where workers are performing their duties. A car that veers off the road in a construction zone, even if it is miles away from a construction worker, counts toward this total. If the statistic looked at motorist and construction worker fatalities in accidents in active work zones with workers present, it is likely that the ratio of fatalities would look much different.

Road Workers Are Still in Danger Every Day

Despite the unexpected way the numbers characterize motorist fatalities compared with worker fatalities, the fact remains that road workers are at constant risk on the job. According to national statistics gathered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Department of Labor:

  • 71 percent – Percentage of worker fatalities caused by dump trucks and cars/vans/tractor-trailers
  • 55 – Average yearly number of road construction worker fatalities caused by a worker being struck by a vehicle
  • 1 percent – Percentage of fatal accidents involving workers who were controlling traffic/flagging
  • 1 out of 5 – Number of those traffic control workers who were wearing orange at the time of the accident
  • 5 percent – Percentage of fatal worker accidents caused by falls to lower levels (including falls from bridges/overpasses)

Don’t Forget Workers’ Comp: It is important to note that construction workers who are injured and surviving family members of workers who are killed in accidents may be able to receive money under Illinois’ workers’ compensation laws. We can help you understand whether this applies in your particular situation.

What Is the State Doing About These Accidents?

One of the primary programs IDOT is using to combat work zone accidents is “Embrace the Orange.” In addition to carrying out an extensive education program and developing literature about the issue, IDOT releases public service announcements such as this one (featuring “Seymour Signs,” the program’s mascot):

IDOT recently released this new safety video encouraging drivers to slow down and stop distracting behavior:

To learn more about other measures being taken to prevent work zone accidents in Illinois, check out the following resources.

  • See Orange. Slow Down. Save Lives!: This is IDOT’s official brochure for its “See Orange. Slow Down. Save Lives!” campaign.
  • Strategic Highway Safety Plan: According to IDOT, “The SHSP is a compilation of education, enforcement, emergency medical services and engineering safety strategies, plans and programs developed based on data-driven priorities and proven effective strategies.” To learn about the steps proposed by the Illinois Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) to make work zones safer, view the most recent plan (and the accompanying update) or go to the SHSP’s site.
  • IDOT Roadway Safety: IDOT’s Roadway Safety initiative coordinates resources in an effort to make highways and other roads throughout the state as safe as possible.

The good news is that these and other resources have brought down the total number of work zone crashes, as well as the number of fatal crashes (when data is looked at over an extended period of time).

The bad news is that these accidents have not been eliminated, and serious construction zone accidents – including those that lead to fatalities – continue to occur at a troublesome rate.

What Can You Do If You’ve Been in a Work Zone Accident in Chicagoland?

As we all know, things move fast in Chicagoland. Following a work zone crash or other type of auto accident, this doesn’t change. You should immediately seek medical attention, even if your injuries seem minor. If you fail to have a medical professional document your injuries, it can be difficult to obtain money to pay for your medical bills later.

You should also contact a lawyer as soon as possible. The insurance carriers who insure the construction company, other motorists and anyone else involved in the accident will launch their legal teams into action as soon as they hear about the accident. You need to do the same, or you may be at a disadvantage if you attempt to seek compensation for the injuries and losses you have suffered.

To learn more or speak to an attorney during a free initial consultation, please contact the Law Offices of Mathys & Schneid, a Naperville law firm, by calling 630-848-9294.