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Texas Work Zone Fatalities: Who Is Responsible?

Work zone safety initiatives almost always target the drivers passing through construction areas, warning them to slow down, pay attention and be aware of their surroundings. This is sound advice, but states may be neglecting an even bigger problem.

Across the country, nearly 1,000 people die every year in work zones. Over 18 percent of those deaths occur in Texas. While drivers' speeding and lack of attention are certainly contributing factors, are they really the only thing preventing safe work zones?

Looking at the safety efforts and highway warnings around construction projects, one might think so. A recent article in the New York Times, however, concludes differently.

It starts at the top -- the federal government simply does not have hard and fast rules in place regarding best practices for roadway construction zones. As the article points out, while motorist activities are carefully monitored and analyzed, construction contractors and state highway inspectors essentially act without federal supervision, and they don't want it. Since every construction project is different, they argue, there is no way the federal government could apply a specific set of rules to regulate state projects.

Still, while the level of coordination between the Federal Highway Administration and state authorities is poor, sometimes the lines of communication between the state and construction contractors are just as frayed. Fatal accidents often devolve into a blame game, while the family members of those killed in accidents wait for justice.

Despite the extremely high number of accidents and work zone fatalities in Texas, lawmakers seem disinclined to amend work zone safety laws any time soon. On the Texas Department of Transportation Web site, all energy is directed toward warning drivers about safety rules.

It's true -- drivers should slow down, pay attention and be aware of construction workers. But an unsafe environment can be addressed from both sides. Sharp pavement-edge drop-offs, inadequate warning signs and poorly constructed detours can be just as dangerous as inattentive drivers.

If you or a loved one has been injured while driving in a work zone, you may have a legal claim against the contractors who were performing the work. Contact an attorney to discuss the facts of your case.

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