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Crashes In Michigan’s Road Construction Zones

September 15, 2014

Road construction slows Michigan highways, interstates, and rural roads, especially in the summer. Our state’s fresh water lakes, dunes, and natural beauty attract out-of-state visitors in the warm months. The increase of road construction zones and road traffic are a dangerous combination, causing thousands of motor vehicle accidents in construction areas every year. The Michigan Department of Transportation released the following totals for 2013:

  • 4,080 automobile accidents in construction zones
  • 1,112 injuries in construction zone accidents
  • 10 fatalities in construction zones

The hazards and casualties should scare anyone driving in Michigan to be more careful in construction areas to protect themselves and passengers. Be informed of the dangers. If an injury occurs, immediately seek help from an experienced attorney who understands construction zone accidents and can investigate immediately. Construction zones change constantly, so it is critical to photograph and video the road conditions soon after the accident. At Buchanan Firm, we handle and promptly investigate the claim, and take the steps necessary to secure fair reimbursement for the injured.

Standards, Rules, and Regulations for Road Construction

In the United States, there are industry, state, and federal standards, rules, and regulations for roadway construction to reduce the dangers. Department of Transportation standards, for instance, regulate roadway markings, flow of traffic, drop-offs, and sight lines – – all hazards construction zones create. Profits-focused contractors often skimp on safety to finish a job on time or ahead of schedule. When the negligent conduct causes injury, the contractor should be held accountable for resulting harms and losses to the people injured.

Common Causes of Construction-Zone Crashes

Injuries and fatalities in road construction accidents can be reduced if drivers stayed informed and paid attention. Common causes of crashes in construction areas are:

Speeding. Exceeding the posted speed limit in a construction zone is the most frequent cause of crash. Construction zone speed limits are set to keep both motorists and road workers safe. Michigan requires motorists to reduce speed to 45 miles per hour in a highway work zone where workers are present (unless a concrete barrier separates workers and motorists). Slow down and travel at or below the posted construction-zone speed limit.

Disobeying or Ignoring Construction Signs. Orange construction zone signs warn or direct motorists about road conditions or detours. When motorists disobey or ignore the signs, accidents occur. Here are a few of the signs you might see in a construction area:

Road Work Ahead
Detour Ahead
Road Closed Ahead
One Lane Road Ahead
Left Lane Closed Ahead
Center Lane Closed Ahead
Right Lane Closed Ahead
Flagger Ahead

Distracted or Inattentive Motorists. Inattentive and distracted drivers pose a serious risk to all motorists. Danger is heightened in a construction area because there is less room, time and margin for error. The same tips to avoiding distracted driving apply in construction zones. You can find tips on promoting safe, non-distracted driving in our recent blog on the dangers of distracted driving: Accidents By Distracted Driving.

Besides avoiding distracted behavior of texting, cell phone use, eating, grooming, surfing the Internet, or checking Facebook, it is critical to be attentive and alert in a construction zone. Pay extra attention and scan the area for workers or moving equipment. In 2014, the Michigan Department of Transportation launched a billboard campaign to deter distracted driving in construction zones. You have probably seen these billboards:



Frustration and Anger. Construction zones cause congestion and annoying traffic backups. We have all experienced travel delays because of construction. Some motorists become frustrated and angry by delay and make irrational driving decisions. Stay patient and do not allow other drivers to affect your driving. Look out for motorists who are not calm and engage in dangerous activity such as speeding, tailgating, passing in ending lanes, or driving on the shoulder.

Tailgating. Tailgating is dangerous. Following a vehicle too closely reduces margin for error. It is especially dangerous in construction zones, where there is no shoulder or escape route, or cement barriers corral the driving lane. Minimum clearance to reduce danger is a separation of at least one car length for every 10 mph of speed (e.g., 4.5 or more car lengths of separation if you are driving 45 mph).

Problematic Merging. Merging at the last minute or at high speeds cause catastrophic crashes in construction zones. When a distracted driver or one ignoring signs enters a construction zone, they attempt to merge with no time to spare. Late merging not only causes traffic back-ups, but is deadly.

Common Accidents and Injuries in Construction Zones

Rear-end collision is the most common accident in a road construction area. Rear-end collisions are more dangerous in the zones because of rapid acceleration and deceleration, and generally cause devastating injuries. Injuries include:

Neck injuries. When your car is hit from the rear, your neck snaps back and then forward. This can cause a hyperextension/hyperflexion injury, known commonly as “whiplash.” The injuries vary in severity, and some whiplash injuries can be permanent and disabling.

Back injuries. Sprains, strains and herniated discs in the thoracic spine and lumbar spine can occur from rear-end collisions.

Face and head injuries. Your face and head may strike the steering wheel or the windshield in a rear-end collision, resulting in fractures, bruises, lacerations or closed-head injuries such as concussions, or worse. It is also possible to sustain a closed-head injury without striking the interior of your car – – the violent back-and-front movement of the head injures the brain because it strikes against the inside of your skull.

Wrist, hand and shoulder injuries. These occur when hands and arms are jammed into the steering wheel by the impact from a rear-end collision.

Airbag injuries. The airbag will deploy if the rear-end collision forces you into a car or object in front. Airbag deployment can cause burns or head trauma.

The worst rear-end crashes are between a commercial truck and an automobile, often killing the driver and passengers of the automobile. Commercial trucks are big and heavy and need more distance to stop or change lanes. If you notice a commercial truck following too closely in your rear-view mirror, stay alert and do not panic. Carefully monitor the truck’s distance and exit the highway or pull to the shoulder if possible to eliminate the danger. For more information on what to do if you are involved in an accident with a commercial truck, refer to our informative blog “Accidents Caused By Commercial Trucks in Michigan”.

How to Avoid Crashes in Construction Zones and Protect Yourself

Most construction area accidents are preventable. Cautious and safe driving in construction zones reduces injury. Remember these important tips when driving in a road construction area:

  • Follow the posted speed limit
  • Pay attention to your speed and adjust as necessary
  • Carefully follow the signs and warnings
  • Plan ahead and avoid construction area when possible
  • Avoid distracted driving
  • Always be attentive and alert
  • Survey your surroundings and stay alert
  • Keep calm and patient
  • Maintain a safe following distance

What to Do if You or a Loved One Are Involved in a Construction Area Crash

After the accident:

  • Contact police and seek medical attention
  • Obtain contact information for all parties involved and any witnesses
  • Observe other parties involved and document all observation and conversations
  • Notify your auto insurance company of the accident and apply for no-fault benefits
  • Promptly hire a plaintiff-automobile-accident attorney
  • Review your auto policy, and have your plaintiff attorney review the policy, for notification requirements and available benefits
  • Do not sign a release or provide a statement (written or recorded) to an insurance adjuster before hiring an attorney. What you say will be used against you.

If you or anyone you know was seriously injured in a road construction area accident, contact the Buchanan Firm law firm. The accident experts at the firm understand what you are going through and will start a full investigation of the accident, determine the cause, and identify those who are responsible to reimburse you for the harms and losses. At Buchanan and Buchanan, we are skilled at investigating motor vehicle accidents and successfully negotiate fair settlements with insurance companies, and persuasively presenting cases at trial when insurers refuse to do what is right. Buchanan and Buchanan offers an exclusive, No Fee Promise. If they don’t win, you don’t pay a professional fee.