MDOT: Serious work zone injuries up

MARQUETTE – Michigan Department of Transportation officials said highway construction zone crashes were down 11 percent last year, but the number of serious injuries from those accidents was up 57 percent over 2012.

MDOT officials detailed those statistics and others in a news release Monday, highlighting this week as National Work Zone Awareness Week.

Overall, in 2013, the number of work zone crashes across the state dropped 11 percent, with injuries down 6 percent from the previous year and fatalities down 33 percent. However, the number of serious injuries reported from work zone crashes went up 57 percent.

MDOT officials said the statistics suggest “an alarming trend.”

“Drivers must pay complete attention to everything that is going on in a work zone in order to safely react to changing conditions,” said MDOT Director Kirk Steudle. “Stay safe by paying attention not only to workers, but to stopped traffic in front of you and to other drivers attempting to merge, many at the last minute.

“We are going to be drilling down into the data to learn more about what may have led to last year’s rise in serious injuries, but even at this early stage, we can say that many of these crashes could have been avoided if drivers had been more alert behind the wheel.”

In 2013, there were a total of 4,080 crashes in work zones in Michigan, according to MDOT. Those crashes resulted in a total of 1,112 injuries and 10 fatalities. Those statistics compare to 4,592 crashes, 1,181 injuries and 15 fatalities recorded in 2012.

The number of those injured seriously in work zone crashes increased from 57 in 2012 to 107 in 2013.

MDOT officials said the fatal accidents killed motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Work zone worker fatalities were reported in 2013, but none of those deaths involved motor vehicles.

MDOT has partnered with the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association to “help raise awareness and create a safe environment for workers and motorists in work zones.”

“We have been all over the state training road construction workers on safe work habits,” said Rob Coppersmith, vice president of membership services for MITA. “But the one thing we can’t control is driver behavior. We are asking anyone who drives in construction zones to exercise caution, and put down their cell phones so that road construction workers can go home to their families at the end of the day.”

National Work Zone Awareness Week concludes Friday.

For more information about work zone safety, visit MDOT’s website at: www.michigan.gov/workzonesafety.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.