Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program
Photo collage: temporary lane closure, road marking installation, cone with mounted warning light, and drum separated work zones.
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Facts and Statistics – Work Zone Safety

Work Zone Crashes

In 2015 there were an estimated 96,626 crashes in work zones, an increase of 7.8% over 2014. This continues a rise in work zone crashes since a low of 67,887 in 2013 (a 42% increase since 2013).

Line chart for Work Zone Crashes vs Non-Work Zone Crashes. Year - Non-Work Zone Crashes (millions) - Work Zone Crashes (thousands)  - 2008 5.7 7.5, 2009 5.4 8, 2010 5.3 9, 2011 5.2 10, 2012 5.5 7.5, 2013 5 7, 2014 5.9 10, 2015 6 11.
Source: FARS/GES data (2008-2015)

Work Zone Crash Frequency

On average, in 2015:

  • A work zone crash occurred once every 5.4 minutes.
  • Every day, 70 work zone crashes occurred that resulted in at least one injury.
  • Every week, 12 work zone crashes occurred that resulted in at least one fatality.

Crash Severity

In 2015 the distribution of work zone crashes by severity included:

73.0% (70,499) of work zone crashes were Property Damage Only (PDO)

26.4% (25,485) of work zone crashes involved at least one injured party

0.7% (642) of work zone crashes involved at least one fatality

This distribution is very similar to non-work zone crashes.

Image of 2015 Work Zone Crash Severity: Injury - 26.4%, PDO - 73%, Fatal 0.7%. 2015 Non-Work Zone Crash Severity - Injury - 27.2%, PDO - 72.2%, Fatal 0.5%.
Source: FARS/GES data (2008-2015)

This similarity in crash severity continues an ongoing trend where the percentage of work zone crashes resulting in injury continues to be generally similar to the percentages for non-work zone crashes.

Percent of Crashes Resulting in Injury by year and percent (year, Non-Work Zone Crashes, Work Zone Crashes) - 2008 29 N/A, 2009 28 N/A, 2010 29 N/A, 2011 29, 29, 2012 28 28, 2013 28 29, 2014 27 25, 2015 28 27
Source: FARS/GES data (2008-2015)

Percent of Crashes Resulting in Fatality by percent (2008-2015) (Year Work Zone, Non-Work Zone) - 2008 .9 .6, 2009 .7 .59, 2010 .6 .59, 2011 .6 5.9, 2012 .78 .59, 2013 .8 .56, 2014 .7 .5, 2015 .7 .5
Source: FARS/GES data (2008-2015)

The trend of fatalities in work zone crashes vs. non-work zone crashes highlights a higher frequency of fatalities in work zone crashes. While the percentages are small – and both are on a slowly declining trend - reducing the rate of fatalities in work zone crashes to be the same as non-work zone crashes would have a huge human impact.

If fatalities occurred in work zone crashes at the same rate as non-work zone crashes, that would mean a total of 164 lives saved in 2015.

Work Zone Fatalities

Overall Work Zone Fatalities

This data comes from National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse Work Zone Fatalities, FARS Data, and Traffic Safety Facts 2014 (PDF 3.5MB).

  • Work Zone Fatalities: In 2014, there were 669 fatalities from crashes in work zones. This equates to 2% of all roadway fatalities nationally.
    • In 2014, the 669 fatalities in work zone crashes equates to 1.8 work zone fatalities per day).
    • FARS data indicate that 590 work zone fatalities occurred in 2011, 617 in 2012, 579 in 2013, and 669 in 2014. 2014 work zone fatalities were up 8 percent from 2012, and 13 percent from 2013.
  • Work Zone Fatalities compared to Overall Highway Fatalities: While highway fatalities are declining overall, there has been a slightly higher rate of decline in work zone fatalities. An 8-year comparison of overall and work zone fatal crash frequencies nationally show similar downward trends. However, the downward trend is more pronounced in the work zone fatal crash numbers. Between 2007 and 2014, total fatal crashes nationwide decreased 20 percent, whereas fatal work zone crashes decreased by 19 percent.

    Line chart comparing total fatal crashes per year to work zone fatal crashes per year from 2007 to 2014. Total fatal crashes per year: 2007 37435, 2008 34172, 2009 30862, 2010 30296, 2011 29867, 2012 31006, 2013 30057, and 2014 30056. Total fatal work zone crashes per year: 2007 700, 2008 650, 2009 580, 2010 520, 2011 567, 2012 555, 2013 527, and 2014 607
    National Trend in Total Fatal Crashes and Work Zone Fatal Crashes (FARS, 2006-2014)

Characteristics of Work Zone Fatal Crashes Crashes Based on 2014 Data

The 2014 work zone fatality data presented in this section is based on the GES and FARS 2014.

  • In 2014, there were 607 fatal work zone crashes involving 669 fatalities.
  • Crash Factors: Of the 607 fatal crashes in 2014:
    • Lack of seatbelt use was a factor in 133 (25%)
    • Speeding was a factor in 172 (28%)
    • Alcohol was cited as a factor in 132 (25%).
    • Time of Day – 65% were classified as daytime crashes and 35% were classified as nighttime crashes.
    • Day of Week – Fatal crashes occurred more frequently on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday than other days of the week.
    • Time of Year – Fatal crashes occurred more frequently during Summer months (May-September).
  • Location of Crashes: Of the 607 work zone fatal crashes in 2014:
    • 23% of fatal work zone crashes occurred on urban interstates, and 20% occurred on urban arterials. Together, urban freeways and arterials account for 43% of all work zone fatal crashes though they account for only 5% of the mileage of the total roadway network.
  • Type of Crash: Of the 527 work zone fatal crashes in 2013, 41% of crashes were rear-end collisions (compared to 16% of all fatal crashes)

    Bar chart comparing fatal crashes by type for work zones and non-work-zones. Proportion of fatal work zone crashes by type: Angle 14 percent, Head on 5 percent, Rear end 20 percent, Sideswipe 2 percent, Fixed object 58 percent, Other 1 percent, and Unknown 0 percent. Proportion of total fatal crashes by type: Angle 18 percent, Head on 10 percent, Rear end 5 percent, Sideswipe 3 percent, Fixed object 64 percent, Other 0 percent, and Unknown 0 percent
    Fatal Work Zone Crashes by Crash Type (GES and FARS, 2013)

  • Type of Vehicle:
    • On average, 85% of deaths in work zones were drivers and passengers in cars
    • Between 2000-2008, about 25% of work zone motor vehicle fatalities had involvement of large trucks, while 12% of all highway fatalities have involved large trucks.

Webinar on Work Zone Fatality Reduction Strategies - Held on May 23, 2012

  • Recording
  • Transcript (HTML, PDF 110KB)
  • Introduction Presentation, by Tracy Scriba, FHWA (HTML, PDF 476KB)
  • California Presentation, by Joe Jeffrey, Road-Tech Safety Services (HTML, PDF 467KB))
  • Florida Presentation, by Stefanie Maxwell, Florida Department of Transportation (HTML, PDF 3.2MB)
  • North Carolina Presentation, by Steve Kite, North Carolina Department of Transportation (HTML, PDF 319KB)

Worker Fatalities

The following facts and statistics were obtained using data from a presentation on Injury Hazards in Road and Bridge Construction (PDF 12.4MB), Fatal Occupational Injuries at Road Construction Sites (PDF 413KB), and Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, unless otherwise noted.

  • Workplace fatalities that occur at a road construction site typically account for 1.5% to 3% of all workplace fatalities annually.
  • Fatality Trends: Roadway construction worker fatalities have generally declined since 2005.

    Roadway Construction Worker Fatalities Between Years 2005-2014
    Year # of fatalities % change from prior year % change from 2005
    2014 119 −13% −28%
    2013 105 −21% −36%
    2012 133 +9% −19%
    2011 122 +15% −26%
    2010 106 −9% −35%
    2009 116 +15% −30%
    2008 101 −5% −39%
    2007 106 −24% −36%
    2006 139 −16% −16%
    2005 165 --- ---

  • Fatality Causes: The primary causes of worker fatalities in recent years were:
    • Runovers/backovers (often by dump trucks): 48%
    • Collision Between Vehicles/Mobile Equipment: 14%
    • Caught in Between/Struck by Construction Equipment and Objects: 14%
  • Runovers/Backovers: Nearly half of worker fatalities are caused when workers are run over or backed over by vehicles or mobile equipment. More than half of these fatalities were workers struck by construction vehicles.
    • Between 2005 and 2010 runovers/backovers were the cause of an average of 48% of worker fatalities. In 2010 runovers/backovers were the cause of 43% of worker fatalities, a slight decline from 2009 (46%).
    • For these types of fatalities, between 2003 and 2007, more workers were struck and killed by construction vehicles (38%) than by cars, vans, and tractor-trailers (33%).
  • Vehicle Collisions: The second most common cause of worker fatalities are collisions between vehicles/mobile equipment.
    • Between 2005 and 2010 this was the cause of an average of 14% of worker fatalities each year. In 2010 this was the cause of 19% of worker fatalities. This is a slight increase from 2009 (16%).
  • Caught in Between or Struck by Object: The third most common cause of worker fatalities are workers caught between or struck by construction equipment and objects.
    • Between 2005 and 2010 this was the cause of an average of 14% of worker fatalities. In 2010 this was the cause of 8% of worker fatalities. This is a decline from 2009 (16%) and the lowest reported number in recent years.

      Pie chart showing distribution of worker on foot fatalities in 2013 by facility type: 19% on rural interstate / freeway, 25% on rural arterial, 19% on rural collector / local road, 19% on urban interstate / freeway, 6% on urban arterial, 13% on urban collector / local road
      Distribution of Worker on Foot Fatalities during Daylight Conditions by Roadway Functional Class (FARS, 2013)

Sources of Information

  1. NHTSA NASS General Estimates System (GES)
  2. NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System – database of all motor vehicle crashes associated with situational factors, aggregated by crashes, vehicles, and persons involved.
  3. NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Report Series – A compilation of motor vehicle crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System.
  4. Large Truck Related Work Zone Crashes – Links to crash facts and reports published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for large trucks involved in fatal and non-fatal crashes that occurred in the United States.
  5. National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse Work Zone Fatalities – Work zone fatality data by state, based on information from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
  6. Alcohol-Related Work Zone Fatalities 1994-2014 – Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities by Year, Construction/Maintenance Zone and the Highest "Driver or Motorcycle Operator" blood-alcohol content in the Crash
  7. Fatal Occupational Injuries at Road Construction Sites, 2003-14 (PDF 413KB) – Report by Stephen Pegula, Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, in cooperation with state, New York City, District of Columbia, and federal agencies, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries.
  8. Identification of Work Zone Crash Characteristics – Report by the Smart Work Zone Deployment Initiative that analyzes work zone crash characteristics of five states (Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin).
  9. Occupational Injuries in Work Zones – Data and information on fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites.
  10. What We Know About Work Zone Fatalities (and What We Don't) (PPT 1.7MB) – Presentation given by Tracy Scriba, FHWA Work Zone Technical Program Manager, at 2010 TRB Annual Meeting.

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