More road work is being done nationwide, financed by the federal government’s stimulus package. Some federal transportation officials are now worrying that after having declined in recent years, fatal accidents could increase because of inadequate safety precautions in highway work zones. There is an ongoing discussion between federal and state authorities as to who is most responsible for work zone safety, both for the workers and for motorists.
Some states have increased speeding fines in work zones, cracked down on drunk drivers, and increased penalties for injuring or killing highway workers. This is probably helpful although most fatalities in work zones happen to drivers (about 85 percent). Traditionally, most of the focus has been on drivers who cause accidents and on trying to reduce those causes (speeding, inattention, drugs and alcohol, etc.).
Should Road Builders Take More Precautions?
However, some federal officials think that contracting companies and the road-building industry in general should take more precautions. Vice president for safety and education at the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, Brad Sant, states that the road-building industry is doing everything it can to prevent auto accidents:
- “Any contractor would think it’s morally wrong to put a worker or motorist in a dangerous situation.”
But one John Hassell Jr., who was previously a federal highway administrator, says:
- “Somebody has to be held accountable, and right now that’s not happening. The system doesn’t provide a lot of consequences for those who could change the situation.”
There are many causes of car accidents with driver distraction and alcohol use being among the most frequent. But since healthcare costs continue to increase and will no doubt do so for the foreseeable future, it is natural to look around for sources of funds to pay the bills. Successful contracting companies and state governments would seem like obvious possibilities.