Illinois has seen a rise this year in construction zone injuries and deaths. This increase has been for both drivers travelling through a construction zone and the construction workers performing work in that zone. Just this spring, Chicago saw two fatalities in the same stretch of construction on I-90 within two weeks of each other. Negligent driving and negligent construction zone patterns have both been identified as causes of these fatalities and injuries.
Distracted driving in construction zones has been a cause for concern for motorists on the road and for the construction workers in work zones. The ever-changing technology associated with smart phones allows people to talk, text, email, play games, catch Pokemon – all while driving. Drivers will sometimes compensate for these actions while driving, through keeping a distance between vehicles or slowing down, but these measures are not always successful, and in fact can lead to greater hazards on congested highways. When a distracted driver is travelling significantly slower than the flow of traffic, other vehicles may make reckless maneuvers to try and get around the distracted driver. Also important while traveling through construction zones is the ability to vary speeds based on the changing traffic patterns. Research has shown that distracted drivers had no variability in speeds compared to non-distracted drivers in work zones. The distracted driver is a hazard to other motorists on the road and to the men and women who are performing work in the construction zone. If a distracted driver crashes through a barricade where workers are performing work, often times there is nothing to protect those workers from a substantial collision and suffering catastrophic injuries.
Construction companies can also be to blame for the rise in injuries and fatalities in work zones. A construction company that is performing work on a highway is required to comply with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The MUTCD defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel. Construction companies are obligated to follow these standards in terms of where reduced speed signs are posted, where and how many flag persons must be present on a partially closed roadway, how to signal for a merge and how far in front of a merge those signs must be posted. If a construction zone is not properly laid out, it can create hazards which negatively impact the safety of the drivers on the road. Illinois courts and juries have found on numerous occasions that a construction company is liable for negligently establishing and maintaining a construction zone when that negligence has led to injuries or fatalities of motorists in the construction zone.
Distracted drivers and negligent construction companies must be held accountable through our civil justice system when their negligence causes injuries or fatalities of others.
A litigation associate at Rapoport Weisberg & Sims, P.C., Ms. VanOverloop focuses her practice on construction negligence, trucking litigation, medical malpractice, products liability and wrongful death cases. Her impressive record in representing clients has had her named an Illinois Super Lawyer Rising Star for the past 6 years.