Staying Safe Driving Through Highway Construction Projects

2021-09-20 20:52:00
construction zone liability,liability for construction zone accidents

Construction hazard signsDriving through a road construction zone can be very dangerous, particularly when road signs, road striping, and directions from workers are unclear. With so many road construction projects in the Sacramento area and throughout the state, it is important to learn how to reduce your risk of a crash when driving through these areas.

You may also have questions about liability for damages if a crash does occur. Do construction companies or Caltrans bear any fault? Do most victims of these crashes simply pursue claims against negligent drivers?  Can the State of California be held liable?

There are several factors that must be considered when assessing liability, which is why you should work with a licensed personal injury lawyer in Sacramento. Arnold Law Firm is prepared to help you through the entire legal process at no upfront cost to you.

Caltrans Construction Projects in the Sacramento Area

There are several construction projects in and around Sacramento, according to the construction map on the Caltrans website:

  • Bridge rehabilitation on Interstate 80 just south of Reed Avenue
  • Adding high occupancy vehicle lane on Interstate 80, southeast of the Sacramento River
  • Adding auxiliary lane to the El Dorado Highway 50 southwest of California State University, Sacramento
  • Pavement Rehabilitation near Sacramento McClellan Airport
  • Replace Bridge Deck on Highway 99 by Fruitridge Road
  • Make intersection improvements at the intersection of Highway 12 and Highway 160 before the Rio Vista Bridge
  • Seismic Retrofit on four bridges in delta area including the Paintersville Bridge in Courtland on State Route 160
  • State Highway 99 Consumnes River Bridge Replacement Project from Dillard Road to Grant Line Road
  • And more

Many highways and major roads in the area are under some form of construction. Lanes are moved around on an almost daily basis, lanes are different widths, new lanes are being closed, and the placement of concrete barriers in some locations makes it seem like you are driving through a tunnel.  Certain types of construction zones are uniquely dangerous – this year two fatal accidents have occurred in a construction zone near Dillard Road. In January, a 26-year-old woman was forced to stop within the construction zone because her vehicle was struck from behind.  The victim was prevented from reaching a safe location to exchange information because the roadway shoulder was blocked off due to the construction.   As the victim was standing outside of her car getting information from the liable party, she was struck and killed by a drunk driver.

In the same construction zone, there was also a head-on collision in August that left a Galt Police officer dead. A Dodge pickup truck crashed through the center concrete barrier and into northbound traffic when it hit the officer’s police vehicle. The driver of the pickup truck also died.

Driving Safely in Road Construction Zones

You cannot count on other drivers to operate their vehicles safely, which is why it is so important to drive defensively, particularly in a construction zone. This means slowing down, keeping your mind and your eyes on the road, staying in your lane and following directions on signs and directions from construction workers. You want to make sure you have a lot of time to react to the cars in front of you and to changes in traffic flow.

Caltrans has several safety tips for driving through work zones on its website, including being patient. Getting impatient could result in speeding or other forms of reckless or aggressive driving that could cause a crash. You should expect delays as there may be fewer lanes and other drivers are slowing down.

You may want to change lanes because it looks like one lane is proceeding faster than another. However, it is often important to avoid doing this unless it is necessary. If you need to merge, be cautious, use your turn signal and try to wait for another driver to wave you over.

Negligent Drivers Are Usually Liable

As in other accidents, drivers are often the ones liable. Common examples of negligent driving in a construction zone that could lead to a crash include:

  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Following too closely
  • Failure to yield the right of way
  • Failing to adhere to construction zone signage

Remember that every driver has a duty of care on the roadway, and they likely need to take extra caution in a construction zone to uphold their duty of care.

What Other Parties May Be Liable for Damages?

It is important to note that in some rare instances, a negligent driver is not the only party who may be held liable for your damages. Sometimes, the construction company, or possibly even a government entity such as Caltrans, bears some amount of fault for employing negligent workers, failing to adequately contain the work zone, or failing to follow the approved safety plans prepared before the construction begins.

Were the Actions of Construction Workers Negligent?

While construction workers have a duty to their colleagues to act in a reasonable manner to prevent injuries, they also have a duty to bystanders in the area, including drivers on the roadway.

When workers in a construction zone fail to keep debris from their work in the enclosed area, it could create a hazard for drivers that may lead to an accident.

Additionally, construction workers sometimes need to direct traffic around a work zone if a roadway is closed. If these workers fail to properly communicate with one another and improperly direct the traffic, a collision could occur.

Was the Construction Zone Properly Marked?

The construction company and its employees also have a legal responsibility to properly mark their work zone to alert bystanders to potentially hazardous conditions. They may be required to post signs about uneven lanes and deviations from previous road markers. 

However, these responsibilities may also fall on the government entity responsible for the road. They may bear liability for construction company negligence.

Were the Roadways Around the Construction Zone Maintained?

Governments use taxpayer dollars to keep roads safe for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. If closed lanes cause drivers to use one-way roads or fewer lanes to merge, those roads need to be safe for drivers. If they are not, there may be government liability if an accident happens.  

We Are Prepared to Help After a Crash. Call Us Today

The attorneys at Arnold Law Firm are prepared to guide you through the legal process, building a strong case in pursuit of full compensation. We have decades of experience negotiating with insurance companies and bring cases to trial if necessary, to secure fair compensation for damages caused by the negligent defendants in these types of cases.  

Call today to learn how we may be able to help you pursue compensation after an accident. There are no upfront fees or obligations.

Call us today at (916) 777-7777 to schedule a free consultation.