More motorists injured in construction zones but fewer killed

By ASHLEY WEIGEL

Capital News Service

LANSING — Serious injuries from Michigan road construction crashes are on the rise although the actual number of crashes, deaths and all injuries has dipped.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) recently tallied 2013 construction zone accidents:

  • 107 serious injuries, up from 57 the year before
  • 4,080 crashes, down from 4,592 in 2012
  • 10 deaths, down from 15 in 2012
  • 1,112 total injuries, down from 1,181 in 2012

A work zone is defined by the Michigan Vehicle Code as a portion of a street or highway that is between a “work zone begins” sign and an “end road work” sign.

The data has not been analyzed yet, but there is some speculation that the lower number of crashes points to the intelligent traffic systems set up by MDOT, said Angie Kremer, traffic incident management engineer for the department.

These systems consist of electronic signs along the expressway that update drivers about construction conditions, giving them more time to prepare for stopped or slowed traffic, Kremer said.

In 2012, there were 609 total deaths in work zone crashes in the U.S. Michigan’s 15 deaths ranked at about the average. Texas and California had the highest number of deaths, with 125 and 67 respectively.

Table via michigan.gov

Table via michigan.gov

The department classifies “serious injury” as one requiring hospitalization.

The rise of serious injuries might correspond to the rise of distracted drivers, Kremer said. Distracted drivers are drivers using cell phones or eating and drinking while on the road. In 2012, there were 815 people involved 748 cell phone related crashes, eight of which were fatal.

But the reasons for the accidents have not yet been released by the Michigan State Police.

The state report said the worker fatalities were not caused by motor vehicles, but the crashes did result in the deaths of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Other causes for worker fatalities are not reflected in this report. Nationally, four out five highway work zone crash fatalities are drivers and their passengers, according to MDOT.

Drivers caught speeding through a work zone can be fined from $110 to $128, according to Melody Kindraka, communications coordinator for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

In 2001, an act known as “Andy’s Law” created penalties of up to a year in prison for injuring a construction worker and up to 15 years in prison with a maximum penalty of $7,500 for killing a worker. The law has been added to, and it now includes other penalties for careless driving, which is considered a civil offense.

Since the law passed, the year with the highest number of serious injuries was 2005 with 143, and the most deaths occurred in 2010 with 23 fatalities. The penalty for speeding in a construction zone is a doubled fine, set in 1997.

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