Construction work throughout Vancouver and Battle Ground is a major source of frustration and a major source of car accident injuries and fatalities. Lanes narrow, creating logjams. It’s often hard for motorists to even know where to drive without clear and proper signage. Further, in construction zones, the road surfaces can be slick, uneven, and rocky.
What are the various types of public road construction in Washington?
According to the Washington Department of Revenue – yes, the Revenue Department, not the Transportation Department – public road construction includes:
- Clearing, graveling, grading, paving, oiling, and cleaning roads.
- Constructing tunnels, drainage facilities, guard rails, fences, and walks.
- Landscaping including planting trees, flowers, and shrubs.
- Placing road signs.
- Placing stripes on the roads.
- Paintings bridges and trestles.
- Installing lighting systems.
- “Mining, sorting, crushing, screening, washing and hauling of sand, gravel, and rock taken from a public pit or quarry”
- Construction of mass transit buildings.
Private construction, such as where buildings are being constructed for a shopping area, includes some of the same activities.
How dangerous is construction work in Vancouver and Battle Ground?
- Fatalities in work zones in 2019 reached a 15-year high.
- In 2020, during the COVID pandemic, even though traffic volumes were lower compared to prior years, work zone crashes and fatalities increased. The U.S. Department of Transportation predicted another 18.4% increase in 2020 “and the largest number of traffic fatalities since 2006.”
- Most roadway crashes involving motorists and road workers are preventable.
- “In a 2021 survey, most highway contractors (60%) reported crashes into their work zones.”
The Federal Highway Administration states that some noticeable work zone accident trends include:
- Most construction zone motor vehicle deaths occur on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
- The most common time for these deaths is between 6 am and 9pm rather than nighttime.
- Most construction accident deaths due to vehicle crashes occur in the summer and fall – likely because most construction work is done when the weather is nice.
Why do work zone accidents occur?
Many of the reasons work zone car accidents happen are the same reasons most car accidents happen – speeding, driving while distracted, driver fatigue, and drunk driving. It can become especially easy to drive while distracted because when traffic slows to a halt, drivers are tempted to look at their cellphones to occupy their time. Rear-end accidents are likely while cars are waiting for a construction worker to wave drivers into another lane or when traffic quickly comes to halt as lanes merge.
Many of the reasons car accidents happen in construction zones are due to the negligence of construction companies. The businesses that run the construction work need to take steps to warn motorists about the work and direct the drivers. Construction site companies are likely liable for a car accident if:
- There are missing cones or barriers.
- The cones and barriers aren’t properly positioned.
- The directional signs are missing or incorrect.
- There aren’t properly placed signs warning drivers to reduce their speed.
- The lighting is poor, especially around the site of the work.
- The warnings about construction work aren’t back far enough to give drivers time to slow down or shift into other lanes.
Many car accidents happen in construction zones because the road surfaces are in disrepair, unlevel, or incomplete. Drivers should be able to steer into other lanes of travel well before they reach these dangerous road surface conditions.
When car accidents occur in construction zones, it’s not just the drivers and passengers who are at risk of injuries. If a car strikes a construction worker, the consequences are likely to be deadly. Many car accidents involve collisions with the many different types of trucks that are used at construction sites. Bulldozers, trucks used to clean debris, trucks that lay the asphalt, trucks that lift workers into trees, and other trucks and heavy machines should be positioned away from the lanes of travel.
When cars and trucks collide, the occupants of the cars are most likely to bear the bulk of the collision. There’s also the danger that the gravel, dirt, and other objects from the construction trucks can spill onto the road. These spills can either directly injure drivers or cause the drivers to crash into other cars or objects as motorists attempt to avoid debris.
What are Washington State’s roadway construction laws?
Washington State has laws that govern construction work. RCW 46.61.527 provides that:
- The Washington Secretary of Transportation should adopt standards for using traffic control devices in roadway construction zones on state highways.
- Drivers must then drive under the speed limit established by those traffic control devices.
- Drivers who speed or endanger others can be charged with fines, penalties, and loss of driving privileges.
Who is liable for a work zone accident?
Many different defendants may be liable for your accident, depending on the circumstances. Possible defendants when there is a car accident in a construction or work zone include:
- The Washington Department of Transportation.
- The local county responsible for any road work.
- The construction company hired to do the work.
- General contractors and subcontractors.
- Truck drivers.
- Car drivers.
How can I drive safely in a work zone?
Precautions that drivers should take include:
- Slowing down when you see construction work.
- Focusing on changing traffic patterns and lanes.
- Being extra careful near the site of the actual work.
- Paying attention to road signs and other markers.
At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver and Battle Ground work zone accident lawyers have been fighting for personal injury victims since 2005. We demand compensation for all your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, car damage, scarring and disfigurement, loss of consortium, and loss of bodily function. We file wrongful death claims when a car accident at a work zone causes the death of a family member.
To discuss your or your loved one’s construction zone accident, call our attorneys in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA. You can phone us at 360-695-3309 or fill out our contact form to speak with our lawyers. We represent accident claims on a contingency fee basis.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.