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Work Zone Crashes, Fatalities Rise During COVID-19

Work zone crashes and fatalities have spiked in some states during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the drop in traffic, alarming transportation and highway safety officials, reports Stateline. Workers patching potholes, striping roads, directing traffic or building highways are more at risk than ever, as drivers zoom through work zones or are preoccupied chatting or texting on their phones. Travel on all roads and streets dropped 40 percent in April and 26 percent in May, compared with last year, says the Federal Highway Administration. Fatal crashes increased in some states. While traffic volume has picked back up in recent months, work zone crews still are encountering speeders and more-distracted drivers.

“Speeding has really come to the forefront during COVID. People are going much too fast,” said Pam Shadel Fischer of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “In work zones, that’s the worst thing we can have happen.” It’s been particularly deadly in Michigan, where in just one week in September, vehicles struck three county employees and a state contractor in separate incidents, killing two. Drivers and passengers also suffer. In 2018, there were 672 fatal crashes in work zones and 755 deaths. Only 124 were workers, according to the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse. Many other work zone crashes result in injuries. In 2018, there were an estimated 123,000 work zone crashes and 45,000 people injured.