HIGHWAY WORK ZONE SAFETY

worker shoveling asphalt on highway

Highway work zones are hazardous both for motorists who drive through the complex array of signs, barrels, and lane changes, and for workers who build, repair, and maintain our streets, bridges, and highways. Continue reading to learn about highway work zone deaths.

Fast Facts

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The Federal Highway Administration reports the number of deaths in crashes that occur in construction and maintenance work zones.

  • From 1982 through 2017, 27,037 individuals (about 773 per year) lost their lives in work zone crashes.
  • Since the peak year of 2002 – when 1,186 died in construction and maintenance zones – the number of deaths declined steadily to an average of 591 from 2008-2014, then increased to an average of 772 from 2015-2017.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports fatal injuries to workers at road construction sites.

  • From 2003-2017, 1,844 workers lost their lives at road construction sites.
  • The number of fatal work-related injuries at road construction sites averaged 123 per year.
  • Over the 15 years from 2003-2017, Texas ranked as the state with the most worker deaths at road construction sites (218), followed by Florida (132), Pennsylvania (91), Illinois (83), California (76), and Tennessee (70).

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the system used to code event and source data in 2010, resulting in a break in series; the data presented here are for 2011-2017.

  • Transportation events accounted for 76 percent of roadway work zone fatal occupational injuries during the 7-year period. In 60 percent of these transportation events, the worker was struck by a vehicle in the work zone.
  • Backing vehicles accounted for 89 of the 345 worker deaths in a work zone for which the direction of travel was recorded.
  • Pickup trucks and SUVs accounted for 151 worker deaths at road construction sites from 2011-2017, followed by machinery (131), automobiles (129), semi-trucks (124),  and dump trucks (82).

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From 2003-2017, 67 percent of work-related deaths in work zones were to the following occupations:

  • Construction laborers (473)
  • Heavy and tractor trailer drivers (250)
  • Construction equipment operators (200)
  • First-line supervisors of construction and extraction workers (163)
  • Highway maintenance workers (142)

Private-sector construction, primarily heavy/civil engineering construction and specialty trade contractors, accounted for 62 percent of worker fatal injuries in work zones.

Service-producing industries in the private sector, such as the transportation and warehousing industry, the administrative and support services industry, and the professional, scientific, and technical services industry, accounted for an additional 15 percent of worker deaths in work zones.

Fourteen percent of workers fatally injured in work zones were in the government sector with state and local governments each accounting for about half of government worker deaths at road construction sites from 2003-2017.

Page last reviewed: October 3, 2019