Dump Truck Fails to Observe Construction Zone

Tuesday morning, a 61-year-old Wesley Chapel man, John Porter, drove southbound on I-75 in a construction zone with his wife and granddaughter. Just before Porter reached State Road 56, the driver of a dump-truck, Cristobal Cepero, exited a paved shoulder and attempted to merge into the southbound traffic lanes. While carrying a load of dirt for the construction site, Cepero forced the dump-truck “directly into the path” of Porter’s Hyundai, leaving Porter dead and his wife and granddaughter in critical condition.

Highway construction zones are a necessary burden in order to maintain our streets and highways. Both motorists and workers are vulnerable to the hazards associated with roadway work zones. Motorists traveling through construction zones must navigate through a barrage of signs, cones, barrels, barricades, and cement barrier walls constructed uncomfortably close to the traffic lands. At times, drivers must change lanes on unfinished and uneven roads, while staying cognizant of the presence of construction workers and their equipment. Inclement weather, high traffic areas, varying speed limits, and low visibility only increase the level of danger.

Construction workers are equally at risk. While building, repairing, and maintaining our streets and highways their lives are constantly in jeopardy. Not only must they be cognizant of safety procedures associated with their equipment, but they must vigilantly keep an eye on approaching traffic that passes through the work zone at speeds between 45-55 mph.

The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse reported that Florida ranks second among states for the highest number of fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in construction or maintenance zones in 2008. Florida also received second place in 2009 for the highest number of fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes in work zones. In 2001, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) analyzed data on worker fatalities in the highway and street construction industry. The DHHS reported that more than 100 workers are killed each year, and over 20,000 workers are injured in the highway and street construction industry. Half of the construction worker fatalities were caused by collisions with motorists that were passing through the work zone.

A major issue associated with high construction zone injuries is that the equipment or vehicles that are used to maintain and build highways have blind spots. At times, the operator of construction equipment must rely on other workers to direct them when it is safe to change lanes, merge into traffic, and place the vehicle in reverse. An unfortunate reality is that the blind spots associated with large equipment increases the chance of collision with highway motorists, workers standing in the construction zone, and pedestrians. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a web page that allows visitors to choose a construction vehicle from an extensive list to see a diagram of the particular vehicle’s blind area.

To review the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse’s 2008 report, please visit: http://www.workzonesafety.org/crash_data/workzone_fatalities/2008.

To review the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse’s 2009 report, please visit: http://www.workzonesafety.org/crash_data/workzone_fatalities/2009.

To review the 2001 Department of Health and Human Services Report on Building Safer Highway Work Zones, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001-128/pdfs/2001-128.pdf.

To review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage on Construction Equipment Zone Safety, please visit: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/highwayworkzones/BAD/imagelookup.html.