Danger Ahead

Danger Ahead

Virtually no laws mandate safety standards in U.S. highway work. Motorists and construction workers are dying as a result. (NYT)

Across the U.S. 5,000 people died and 200,000 were injured in highway work zone related crashes in the last five years. That’s more than two deaths a day, yet there are virtually no laws or regulations mandating safety measures in work zones.

Standards exist but they are loosely enforced, differ from state to state and contractors are rarely penalized when the guidelines are violated due to carelessness or a desire to save money.

This New York Times video describes this larger issue through the stories of two families who lost a loved one due to what they say was work zone negligence. Jesse Sepeda, safety director for a major highway construction company in Texas, lost his son in a work zone crash last year. Sepeda would like to see a standard uniform law to cover every roadway in the U.S.

Tyler Brashear was 11 when the car in which he and his father were driving was crushed by a tractor trailer in a work zone. Traffic going 70 mph had come to a standstill as highway equipment was shifted around. There were no warning signs for motorists of the work zone and virtually no safety procedures had been followed. Tyler’s father and one other motorist died in the incident.

While the federal economic stimulus package is prompting a boom in highway construction, Sepeda and others worry that without tougher safety standards, construction zone fatalities could be on the rise.

CHANNEL: New York Times

Length: 10:32

By Matthew Orr & Mike McIntire
Photography by Matthew Orr & Greg Kahn
Produced by Matthew Orr