You’re probably aware of the campaigns to get drivers to slow down in road construction zones. But while governments have been focusing on that, they’ve paid less attention to the role of contractors in construction zone crashes.
Regulations governing contractors’ safety responsibilities vary from state to state.
A New York Times article says, as a result, there are few penalties levied against contractors when guidelines are violated.
Why this is more important now than ever: The federal government has poured billions of stimulus dollars into state road construction. There will be a lot of road construction in the next few years.
And some of the contractors getting stimulus money to rebuild roads have been involved with fatal highway crashes.
Example: This year, Florida awarded a bridge-repair contract for $744,000 to Zep Construction of Fort Myers. The Times says Zep has a long history that includes work-zone safety done wrong.
Two years ago in Sarasota, while repairing a bridge on I-75, Zep used a rolling roadblock. In a properly run roadblock, police cruisers slow down traffic to 20 miles an hour.
But shortly after midnight on Oct. 1, 2007, traffic in this roadblock came to a halt in a blind spot where the speed limit was 70.
A tractor trailer wasn’t able to stop in time and plowed into a car driven by James Brashear with his 11-year-old son, Tyler, also on board. The crash killed Mr. Brashear instantly, his body wedged against his son’s lap. One other motorist was killed, and 10 others were injured.
The State Transportation Department cited Zep. The lawyer for Tyler’s mother said he believed the financial incentives for contractors to finish projects early and earn a bonus undermined safety.
Despite the crash and citation, Florida gave Zep 98 out of 110 possible points for the I-75 project — 89%, or roughly a B+.