Gibbs & Fuerst, LLP

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Distraction linked with high risk of highway work zone crashes

California drivers should know that the average text message takes five seconds to read. In those same five seconds, a vehicle going 55 mph will travel the length of a football field. This is just one illustration of the hazards of distracted driving. This form of negligence can raise the risk of a crash in a highway work zone.

A distracted driver is 29 times more likely to cause a construction zone highway crash, according to researchers at the University of Missouri. For their study, they relied on "naturalistic" driving data from the Transportation Research Board's SHRP 2 (Strategic Highway Research Program 2). What the SHRP 2 did was collect first-hand accounts of drivers' interactions with their vehicle, the roadway and the surrounding environment. The data covered more than 3,000 drivers traveling over 50 million miles between 2006 and 2015.

Previous studies on work zone safety relied on the vague information found in the crash reports that police would fill out. However, researchers used the naturalistic data and were able to reconstruct drivers' actions. They also built off previous data showing how the narrow lanes in highway work zones pose a risk and how speeding is correlated to injury severity.

The results of the study may lead to recommendations being made to the Federal Highway Administration and state transportation agencies. They may include recommendations for better public education and texting bans.

In the event that a distracted driver causes an auto accident, a victim may be able to file a personal injury claim and be compensated for their injuries, vehicle damage, lost wages and other applicable losses. Auto insurance companies are aggressive in denying claims, though, so a victim may want a lawyer to assist them, negotiate on their behalf for a settlement and prepare for a courtroom trial if one cannot be achieved. It all begins usually with a case evaluation.

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