In some parts of the country, there’s an old joke that they have two seasons: winter and construction. The Florida version of that adage is that our seasons are tourist and construction, yet the argument can be made that our generally pleasant weather means there is no real construction off-season. And since people are always trying to get from point A to point B, they are inevitably going to encounter construction zones. Whether you're traveling by car, bike, or foot, road construction is as commonplace as your favorite coffee shop. It’s easy to grow complacent and not really consider the dangers often involved in construction areas. Yet, these sites pose hazards to members of the motoring and non-motoring public alike.
Ways You Can Help Yourself When Near Construction Zones
- Pay attention – don’t be distracted by your phone.
- Watch for sidewalk closure signs and follow posted notices of temporary walkways/bike lanes.
- Listen for instructions by workers.
- Watch for vehicles entering and exiting the worksite.
- Cross at intersections, marked crosswalks or signalized intersections.
- Stay outside orange cones, fences and barricades.
When construction areas creep into pedestrian territory, walkers and bikers are often directed to alternate routes, which may be unsafe, difficult to navigate, or both. Pedestrians and bicyclists are particularly vulnerable because they lack protection. They don’t have the benefit of airbags or seatbelts or being surrounded by metal. They also lack the safety training of the workers at the site, so it’s up to those in charge of construction areas to take adequate precautions for everyone – including the disabled and the blind.
Some of the measures that should be addressed:
- Advance warning and guidance signs should be used to prevent mid-block crossings.
- Bicyclists should be warned about surface irregularities.
- Detoured routes should be clearly defined.
- Temporary routes should not be much longer than original routes.
- Transit stops should still be accessible or reasonably relocated.
- Nighttime lighting should be provided.
- Pedestrian routes should be physically separated (barricade, fencing, etc.) from the work space and from motor vehicle traffic, and should be ADA compliant.
- Holes, excavations and trenches should be fenced in or otherwise guarded.
- Sidewalk sheds, netting and chutes should be used to protect people from falling objects.
- Flag workers should be used wherever there are unusual traffic patterns or high traffic areas.
- Movement by work vehicles and equipment across designated pedestrian paths should be minimized.
- Dangerous building materials should be properly used and disposed of.
- Steps should be taken to manage dust.
- A worksite supervisor should walk the route daily, noting and correcting issues, and making sure the path is clear of debris.
Pedestrians already have a tough time in Florida. Between 2003 and 2012, almost 5,200 people were killed while walking in Florida, representing 17.7 percent of the 29,302 traffic-related fatalities in the state during this period. Of the metro areas in the Sunshine State, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach area ranked first, with 1,539 pedestrian fatalities. Florida’s overall Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) is 168.65, which places it nationally at No. 1. For the years 2003 to 2010, these fatalities include 233 children under age 16 and 960 adults aged 65 or older. The news isn’t any better for bicyclists. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida has the highest rate of bicycling deaths of any state in the nation — 0.57 per 100,000 people, more than double the nationwide rate of 0.23 per 100,000.
Many construction sites inconvenience and endanger pedestrians, while site developers use sidewalks as staging areas. The question of responsibility can get tricky when contractors, subcontractors, owners, engineers, equipment manufacturers, scaffolding companies, and other entities all work together in a construction zone. They may accuse one another of having ultimate responsibility for safety at the site. Because injuries near construction areas can involve multiple parties, including some that may not be obvious initially, it is important to have your case evaluated by an attorney.
As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski & Funt, P.A. has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless construction zone accident victims, and we are highly experienced in handling a wide range of personal injury cases. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.