Administrators with the North Carolina Department of Transportation said they have planned meetings with traffic engineers and officials with local governments in Mecklenburg County after a spate of crashes on the I-77 toll lane that is under construction.
According to WBTV.com, there was an uptick of 400 crashes last year in comparison to the three previous years. There was no one kind of crash that occurred in particular – rear-end collisions, sideswipes and crashes with fixed objects all rose in frequency in this entire construction zone. In the active work zone areas, it was even worse. There was a nearly 85 percent increase in the number of sideswipe crashes in this segment, and fixed object crashes were up more than 60 percent.
NCDOT said it plans to dispatch safety units and traffic engineers to conduct an analysis of what can be done to improve safety along this corridor. Officials did note that while crashes in construction zones tend to be more common than in other areas, they tend to be less severe and less likely to result in injury or fatalities. This often has to do with the fact that people may be traveling at lower speeds, but often in traffic patterns that are unfamiliar or even confusing.
The workers, however, remain at the highest risk. Often, roadside workers are vulnerable next to fast-moving traffic.
NCDOT reports that as of April 2016, there were about 600 major construction projects ongoing throughout the state – not including work on roadside landscaping, pothole repairs and utility line repairs. That’s on any given day. There were approximately 4,635 work zone crashes in the state in 2015. Of those, 19 were fatal, and approximately 2,500 people were injured.
What accounts for most of these accidents? According to officials, unsafe speed and driver distraction are responsible for half. What this means is that workers injured in these incidents may be able to collect workers’ compensation benefits and file claims against third-parties. This can complicate matters to some degree. But it can also mean workers can increase the overall amount of compensation they will receive. That’s because workers’ compensation claims are limited to medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. You will not receive full wage loss – including loss of opportunity to advance in your career – and you won’t receive damages for pain and suffering or loss of life enjoyment. Your spouse will not be allowed to collect damages for loss of consortium from your employer. However, these are all claims you can assert on a liable third party, such as a distracted truck driver or other motorist.
If NCDOT is not your employer, you might possibly be able to assert claims against the government.
It’s clear the agency believes something more must be done to protect motorists and workers. Officials are exploring whether to:
- Lower the speed limit on the highway.
- Repaint the lines more clearly.
- Pave over the lanes properly.
Many drivers say they are beginning to avoid I-77 altogether, after being stuck in traffic jams for hours, often caused by crashes. A number of accidents have involved vehicles running off the road to avoid stopped traffic ahead.
Contact the Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
NCDOT respond to increase in crashes along I-77 Project Zone, March 9, 2017, By Ben Williamson, WBTC.com
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