A $3.5 trillion budget resolution was passed by the Senate on August 11th and the votes were cast among party lines. This budget resolution is significant not only because of the price tag, but because its passage includes a deadline of September 27th for a vote on the infrastructure bill, which also passed with bipartisan support.
The infrastructure bill is a separate piece of legislation, which was passed in a Senate vote of 69-30. Among the numerous areas of focus within the bill are budget plans for improved road safety, including money specifically targeting roads, bridges and transportation. If the infrastructure bill moves forward, this will mean numerous major projects for the nation’s deteriorating roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
In this article
- Breakdown of the infrastructure bill
- Road safety in construction areas
- Statistics for increased accidents in high-risk areas
Breakdown of the infrastructure bill
Lawmakers are targeting major projects within the nation’s infrastructure. The largest portion of the massive resolution is dedicated to roads and bridges, currently around $110 billion. The infrastructure bill also includes roughly, as outlined by NPR:
- $73 billion for electric grid and power infrastructure
- $66 billion for passenger and freight rail
- $65 billion for broadband investments
- $55 billion for water systems and infrastructure
- $50 billion for Western water storage
- $39 billion for public transit
- $25 billion for airports
- $21 billion for environmental remediation projects
- $17 billion for ports and waterways
- $15 billion for electric vehicles
- $11 billion for road safety
Road safety in highway work zones
Tips for drivers
Be prepared in case of an accident
With increased road work comes an increase in potential hazards on roadways. It helps to prepare for any accident or car emergency by carrying the following essentials:
- Proof of insurance: Keep updated proof of car insurance in the glove compartment where you can easily find it and reach it, if necessary. Although digital versions are available, a paper one could be easier to access versus your smartphone.
- Roadside assistance information: Know your roadside assistance details and have the number programmed or handy in case you need to call during an emergency.
- Smartphone charger: Smartphones could come in handy during emergencies so it helps to keep a cellphone charger in your car, allowing you to call for help if necessary.
- Emergency names and numbers: Be sure to program your family members’ names and numbers, as well as anyone else you would need to call for an emergency, in your phone.
- Emergency car kit: Keep a car emergency kit packed with essentials, such as a flashlight, batteries, jumper cables, a compass and reflective triangles.
- Extra blankets: If you live in a colder area, it may help to keep blankets in the car.
- Tool kit: Consider keeping a small tool kit or multipurpose utility tools in your vehicle case you need to make a quick fix.
Tips for workers
As traffic continues to increase on the roads, it can create a more dangerous environment for the work zones. 842 work zone fatalities occurred in 2019, nearly one-quarter of which were due to rear-end collisions. Car accidents in work zones have killed more than 3,500 Americans between 2015 and 2019 alone.
It is up to drivers to take responsibility for their road safety and watch out for road workers. However, there are best practices for road workers to adhere to increase their own safety within their work routine, such as:
- Wear highly visible and reflective clothing, including armbands, vests and hats.
- Pay close attention to your surroundings.
- When operating machinery, always check for blindspots.
- Pay attention to vehicles entering and leaving the roads.
- Review communication signals with other workers to ensure each one of you understands the gestures.
- Never assume another driver or machine operator sees you and use extreme caution around other vehicles.
- If you need to operate machinery, always wear your seatbelt.
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially when working in hot climates.
Statistics on increased risk of accidents
Distracted driving leads to a series of vehicle accidents, but traffic volume is another leading cause. The statistics surrounding the number of accidents in work zones highlight the continued need for drivers to use extreme caution when in these areas.
Work zones, by nature, can make driving more hazardous. Workers are especially at risk since they typically stand in the middle of the road or nearby moving vehicles. Consider these facts regarding accidents and safety in the work zones:
- In 2019, there were 842 work zone fatalities recorded versus the previous three-year average of 782.7 fatalities.
- 288 of the 842 fatalities involved trucks.
- Four fatalities directly involved buses.
- 133 work zone fatalities were pedestrian-involved.
- Of the 842 fatalities, 132 of them — or 16% — were workers killed within the work zones.
Work zones present several potential hazards, including distracted drivers, limited visibility and drivers who do not obey the posted speed limit. For example, in 31% of work zone accidents, speeding was a direct cause of the fatality.
The infrastructure bill addresses an overdue updating of the country’s bridges. Right now, many bridges have limited capacity, which means high traffic on these bridges results in vehicles being closer together than they would be on the highways. Bridge-related accidents represent a significant portion of vehicle crashes. Statistics show an alarming number of accidents and fatalities that involve bridges, including:
- Nearly 8% of all car accidents involved bridges.
- Of the 438 bridge-related accidents, only 31 involved underpasses.
- Over 14% of all fatal accidents involved bridges, and more than 17% of all fatalities involved bridges.
- Almost 9% of the injuries occurred in accidents involving bridges.
- Collisions with other vehicles were often caused by wet and icy conditions, along with bridges being too narrow.
- The majority of vehicle crashes and fatalities involving bridges took place on interstates and parkways.
You may be surprised to learn data shows public transportation may offer more safety benefits versus other types of transportation, such as passenger cars.
- Bus passengers tend to be safer compared to passengers in private vehicles, with a bus accident fatality rate of about 45 deaths per 1000,000. Comparatively, private vehicle accident occur at a rate of 251 deaths per 100,000 accidents.
- According to research presented during the 2017 Transportation Research Board’s 96th Annual Meeting, motor vehicle occupants are three times more likely to be injured in an accident than bus passengers. Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that only 44 bus occupants died in accidents in 2010, compared to 12,435 private passenger vehicle fatalities.
- Research shows that the vast majority of bus accidents occur in charter buses or other motorcoaches rather than public buses.
The proposed infrastructure bill brings much-needed attention to the roads and bridges across the country, particularly those in dire need of updates. Assuming the measure passes, there could be more work zones across U.S. roadways and bridges. Drivers are ultimately responsible for paying attention and adhering to increased safety standards in these work zones, which helps keep both drivers and workers safe. Remaining distraction-free and paying close attention to lane changes, merges and decreased speed limits are a few examples of how drivers can be more responsible in work zones.
The next few weeks will likely bring plenty of updates and changes to the infrastructure bill. Although it still has to receive approval, the bill seems likely to go into effect. No matter the timeline for updates to begin, drivers who pay careful attention to work zone workers and safety rules help create a safer environment for all involved.