American drivers are failing to take appropriate caution with regard to road construction zones, a survey of more than 400 contractors who perform roadwork across that country indicates.

Published by Associated General Contractors of America earlier this month, the National Highway Construction Zones Survey showed that 45 per cent of contractors had experienced at least one crash involving a motor vehicle within a work zone in which they operated, with 69 per cent of these saying they experienced multiple crashes and as many as a quarter (26 per cent) saying five or more crashes occurred.

While drivers and vehicle occupants were more likely than construction workers to be killed or injured when such accidents occur (driver/occupant injuries and deaths occurred in 43 per cent and 16 per cent of aforementioned accidents respectively), 20 per cent of crashes resulted in injuries to workers whilst six percent involved worker deaths.

Furthermore, a quarter of contractors say work zone crashes during the past year have caused delays due to site shutdowns, 38 per cent of which were two days or more in duration.

Around the world, safety measures associated with road construction and maintenance sites have been the subject of considerable attention in recent years.

In South Africa, for example, the Arrive Alive website says accidents are caused by speeding traffic, inadequate sign posting and lighting, drivers failing to pay adequate attention to work zones, distractions (such as cellular phones) and drivers being forced into zones as a result of failing to move out of affected lanes in sufficient time when approaching the zones.

The web site suggests a number of steps to help avoid these, including advanced notice of work and likely delays, adequate training and suitable conspicuous clothing for traffic controllers and appropriate (and realistic) speed limits within and around work zones.

In Australia, data from Safe Work Australia indicates that between 2008-09 and 2011-12, being hit by moving objects or falling objects accounted for 29 per cent of all construction industry fatalities and 16 per cent of serious injury claims – with more than half of the aforementioned fatalities (16 fatalities in total) involving road transport specifically.

While tougher laws and penalties, increased use of concrete barriers and more frequent training were each cited as solutions by the majority of contractors surveyed, Tom Case, chair of ACG’s national highway and transportation division and senior vice president of Watsonville, Calif.-based Granite Construction, said the onus was upon drivers to slow down.

“There is little margin for error when you work within a few inches of thousands of fast-moving vehicles,” he said. “As the data makes clear, not enough drivers are slowing down and staying alert near work sites.”

“Ensuring proper work zone safety starts and ends with cautious drivers.”