You know what they say: Chicago has two seasons — winter and construction. Before hitting the road, it’s important for drivers to take a serious look at construction zone safety.
McNabola Law Group founder Mark McNabola recently obtained a $7.8 million jury verdict for a man who lost his leg after being hit by a driver who was confused in a Chicago construction zone. A middle-aged man was working for a utilities company at a construction site when a city supervisor requested he locate and spray-paint telephone lines on the roadway to sketch utilities locations for the job.
He was putting tools back in his truck when a confused driver lost control and slammed his car into the worker. As a result, his leg was amputated.
City crews had designated a temporary traffic pattern that blocked the southeast lane of traffic, forcing all vehicles into an undivided lane on the opposite side of the road. The city also failed to create clear traffic controls, establish a buffer zone between workers and motorists, or use flagmen and barricades.
“Distracted driving is on the rise,” McNabola said. “There are more cars and bicycles on the road, and there’s more construction going on nationwide. It’s paramount for drivers to slow down and be alert to changing road conditions.”
In 2016, 143 road workers were killed in work zone collisions across the U.S., according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The dangers don’t stop with workers. Of the 765 people killed in work zone crashes in 2016, 80 percent were drivers or passengers.
In another McNabola Law Group case, a young woman was a passenger in a car that drove through a Chicago bridge construction site and crashed into a pit. She suffered a fracture of her cervical spine.
The construction company responsible for the site had failed to properly install and maintain warning signs, barricades and construction horses. The car’s driver, who was confused by the construction zone markings, went off the roadway where the bridge had been removed — causing the car to fly 25 to 40 feet before crashing.
McNabola obtained a $4.9 million jury verdict on behalf of the young woman and her family.
McNabola Law Group recommends following these tips to help keep Illinois roads safer for everyone:
• Check your route before you go. Traffic patterns constantly change in construction zones, and work may close lanes or move traffic. Apps like Waze or Google Maps are continually updated, while state and local agencies frequently publish traffic pattern alerts on their websites and social media channels.
• Leave space. Rear-end crashes are very common in work zones, so increase your following distance to leave more space between you and the car in front of you.
• Slow down. Excessive speed was judged to be a factor in almost a third of fatal work zone collisions in 2016. It’s safer for everyone involved if you simply slow down. Slower speeds give you more reaction time.
• Keep your eyes on the road. It’s easy to look away from the road for a moment. But the variability of a work zone means paying attention is key. Drivers face changing road surfaces, reroutes and debris — not to mention workers. Watch for signs that tell you want to expect and follow those lowered speed limits.
• Be Cautious. Don’t assume workers have made a safe alternative construction route. Instead, drive with the assumption there may be driver uncertainty or other problems.