When it comes to road safety, work zones are a double-edged sword. Road work is needed to keep our roads safe and well-maintained, but while the work is ongoing, the work zone itself is a hazard to both motorists and construction workers. That's why it's so important to slow down, obey flaggers and traffic signals, and generally exercise caution in work zones.
Unfortunately, not all motorists do so. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were 842 fatalities in work zone crashes in 2019, with a higher than average percentage of them occurring in Oklahoma. And while many factors contribute to work zone crashes, perhaps the most significant was the involvement of heavy trucks. As FMCSA Deputy Administrator Meera Joshi put it, "large trucks continue to have a disproportional involvement in fatal crashes occurring in work zones – 33 percent – when large trucks comprise roughly 5 percent of vehicular traffic."
What makes large trucks so dangerous in work zones?
Large trucks are difficult to maneuver under any circumstances because of their size and high center of gravity, and road work zones are potentially dangerous for any vehicle. When you put the two together, there is a toxic mix of risk factors that can be deadly:
- Reduced speed: as traffic is funneled into a single lane to accommodate road work, vehicles have to slow down, often quite dramatically. On Oklahoma highways, with speed limits up to 75 or even 80 miles per hour in some places, a large truck needs a huge amount of space to accommodate its long braking distance. If a trucker does not see the work zone ahead and fails to slow down in time, they may cause a rear-end accident with a smaller vehicle.
- Blind spots: a large truck has big blind spots around the side, front, and back. These "no-zones" are particularly dangerous when traffic needs to merge or change lanes to maneuver through a work zone as smaller vehicles can inadvertently end up in the blind spots.
- Changing circumstances: when traffic merges down to a single lane, other motorists may race ahead in order to avoid being stuck behind the truck. Flaggers, law enforcement, construction workers, and construction vehicles may also enter or exit the roadway unexpectedly, sometimes in or near the truck's blind spots. Of course, truckers have no control over other road users, but they should be trained and experienced to expect the unexpected in a work zone.
In short, when a large truck approaches a construction zone or is even on a road where construction is occurring, safety needs to be the priority. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. Truckers are under pressure from the trucking company to make deliveries faster, which may mean they drive at unsafe speeds and can't slow down in time when approaching a work zone.
Distracted driving, too, is common among truck drivers, and while you'd think they would at least focus on the road in a work zone, that's not always the case. Truckers who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or who skip mandatory rest breaks and become drowsy behind the wheel, are particularly ill-suited to pay attention to the changing situation in a construction zone.
Get an attorney who can hold the trucking company accountable
When a large truck causes an accident in a work zone, the trucker, trucking company, and any other responsible parties need to be held accountable. Victims need full compensation for their injuries, and the trucking companies need to learn that putting Oklahomans at risk has consequences. Unfortunately, that's not always how it plays out. The trucking companies have deep pockets and highly paid attorneys to protect their interests, and their insurance carriers fight hard to pay victims as little as possible.
In short, if you've been hurt in a crash caused by a large truck, you need an experienced attorney on your side to level the playing field. We would be honored to listen to your story. Schedule your free consultation with a truck accident lawyer at Lawter & Associates Attorneys at Law PLLC today.