Anyone who recently traveled through Tacoma in Washington knows that there’s a major construction zone on highway I-5. The construction site is on the road near the Tacoma Dome. The local municipality reduced the speed limit through this area to 50 miles per hour (mph) because of the construction project. Additionally, police officers are assessing double penalties for drivers exceeding the work zone speed limit.

 

Driving slower to reduce construction work injury in Tacoma road projects

Recently, I noticed that the reader-boards along that area ask drivers to slow down to help construction workers. The city of Tacoma is trying hard to prevent work injury occurrences. Bright orange speed limit signs, penalty warning signs, and reader-board messages are spread across several zones. Sadly, from my observations, all these efforts are not successful. Drivers are not slowing down through this area in Tacoma. To make things worse, most drivers that go faster regularly express their despise to safe drivers. In fact, drivers that obey the new speed requirements draw the ire of local motorists and experience unfriendly tailgating.

 

Road construction work injury and workers’ death statistics

In the US, approximately 3 workers die from traffic-related motor vehicle crashes every day. These statistics come from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). If you think about, it adds up to over 1000 work injury instances that result in the death of the worker.

 

Interestingly, Washington State receives federal funding from NIOSH to track work-related deaths after traumatic work injury.  The program responsible for that data tracking is called the Washington Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE). More information about work zone fatalities and the FACE program can be found on the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) website.

 

According to FACE, motor vehicle accidents accounted for 21% of construction work death incidents in Washington State from 1998 through 2019.  These staggering statistics are for fatalities alone. They do not account for other serious non-fatal workplace injury accidents that happen on the road.

 

All drivers must help prevent roadwork injury and work accidents

To me, work zone speed limits are not an inconvenience or a suggestion.  These lower speed limits are necessary to protect road and construction workers. Consequently, the speed limit signs are there to prevent construction workers’ work injury and death.

 

In my posts, I often write about the importance of increasing workplace safety.  Frequently, I place that burden on employers. However, in this case it is up to us, the drivers, to prevent work accidents from happening. Road construction zones are one area where we must all do our part to make it less dangerous for road workers. That means slowing down and following signs and directions. If we all stay alert and attentive, we can prevent work injury and help keep our road workers safe.