What Risks are Faced by Road Maintenance Crews?
April 6, 2021
Road maintenance crews employed by state and local agencies continually face risks of being struck by passing motorists, resulting in serious personal injury that is sometimes fatal. Everyone who travels by car or truck depends on the services provided by road crews to keep highways safe. To avoid car accidents, drivers should exercise patience and caution when they see workers on the roadways doing their job. When accidents occur, a seasoned car accident lawyer should be contacted to investigate the cause of the crash and represent those who have been injured through no fault of their own.
Road Maintenance is Necessary and Dangerous Work
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 100 road maintenance workers are killed on the job each year. In Pennsylvania alone, since 1970, at least 88 PennDOT workers have died in the line of duty and 30 Pennsylvania Turnpike workers have lost their lives on the job. Thousands more road maintenance workers across the state are injured each year, many of them seriously. Working on and near busy highways is dangerous but necessary business. Raising awareness among motorists can help avoid tragic accidents.
What Jobs are Performed by Road Maintenance Crews?
Drivers who travel the highways of Pennsylvania in spring and summer are familiar with seeing workers repairing potholes and resurfacing roads. However, road maintenance crews perform many other important jobs, including the following:
- Alerting drivers to road hazards. Maintenance workers may be called on to set up flares or traffic cones to warn drivers about accidents or other road hazards.
- Installing and maintaining road signs. There are more than 1.3 million state-owned signs in Pennsylvania.
- Bridge maintenance. PennDOT inspects bridges at least once every two years. The average age of a bridge in Pennsylvania is 50 years.
- Line painting. Yellow and white traffic lines must be repainted in the summer when the weather is warm and dry.
- Pipe maintenance. Controlling water flow around roadways is essential to maintaining pavement. Pipe maintenance is a year-round activity.
- Vegetation management. Mowing and tree-thinning help maintain visibility for drivers.
- Winter operations. In addition to deicing and snow removal, road crews may be called on to assist stranded motorists.
Pennsylvania Turnpike employees also maintain seven large tunnels and approximately 30 interchanges. All these tasks are performed day after day on or near the busiest roadways. During inclement weather, road maintenance crews work shifts at night as well to provide 24-hour services to keep roadways safe.
What Responsibilities do Motorists Have to Avoid Accidents with Road Maintenance Crews?
Motorists are responsible for obeying posted speed limits and following directions of flaggers and signage to avoid accidents with road maintenance crews, especially in construction zones. Motorists who ignore the rules for construction zones put themselves at risk as well. According to the Federal Highway Administration, approximately 85 percent of all construction zone fatalities involve motorists, not workers.
Pennsylvania has passed a number of laws to help ensure the safety of workers in construction zones, including the following:
- Drivers who do not turn on their headlights in posted work zones may be fined $25.
- Drivers who violate the posted speed limit by more than five miles per hour are subject to doubled fines.
- Any driver who causes serious bodily injury within a work zone may also face up to $5,000 in fines and a six-month license suspension.
- Drivers who are found at-fault for causing a death within a work zone may face up to a $10,000 fine and one-year license suspension.
Despite these measures, impatient drivers often disregard rules for construction zones. Moreover, motorists also may not believe they need to slow down as much for a temporary work zone. In many instances, road crews are called on to help stranded motorists, remove road debris, set up flares around a road hazard, or perform other tasks on the spot without having a chance to deploy flaggers and signs.
How can a Lawyer Help Road Maintenance Workers Injured in Car Accidents?
Road maintenance crews who suffer injury in an accident that is due to the negligence of a passing motorist may have the legal right to seek recovery for damages. However, the circumstances of each accident are unique, and determining fault is not always clear-cut. This is especially true if the accident occurred outside a well-marked construction zone. A qualified lawyer can help road maintenance workers injured in car accidents by carefully investigating the accident circumstances to determine if it was caused by another person’s negligence. The legal team at Galfand Berger LLP have conducted many accident investigations, including the following:
Turnpike maintenance workers suffer severe back injuries after being hit by a truck while attempting to help a stranded motorist. The workers had been assigned the task of patrolling the Pennsylvania Turnpike and helping motorists who were disabled by inclement weather. The workers stopped to assist a driver who had pulled onto the shoulder of the road and were struck by a tractor trailer traveling about 55 miles per hour in icy conditions. Both workers suffered severe back injuries; one also developed chronic pain syndrome, while the other endured fractured ribs. After thoroughly investigating the circumstances of the accident, the car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP were able to demonstrate that hail, rain, and snow had started falling about 30 minutes prior to the accident. The truck driver was found negligent because he should have slowed down and adjusted his driving to accommodate the road conditions. This conclusion was supported by the deposition of another truck driver who had slowed down to 40 miles per hour on the icy road to be safe and was subsequently passed by the defendant’s truck just minutes before it struck the workers. Galfand Berger lawyers obtained a settlement of $1.75 million for the injured workers.
Accidents such as this can be easily avoided if motorists and truck drivers remain on the alert for road crews during inclement weather and exercise patience and restraint when traveling through construction zones.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Apply Experience and Skill When Investigating Car Accidents Involving Road Maintenance Workers
Road maintenance crews face significant risks while performing their jobs on our state’s busiest highways. When accidents happen, the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP work diligently to investigate the circumstances of the crash to determine whether it was caused by another person’s negligence. If you or someone you know is seeking legal guidance after being struck by a motor vehicle, reach out to us. We have been helping victims of car accidents and their families across New Jersey and Pennsylvania for many years. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online.
From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.