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Highway work zone accidents more likely with distracted drivers

New York residents should know that every 5.4 minutes in this nation, there’s a car accident in a highway work zone. Combine the narrow lanes with drivers who don’t want to reduce their speed, and one can see why work zones are so dangerous. Another factor that can easily raise the risk for a crash in these areas is distracted driving.

A team at the University of Missouri analyzed some naturalistic driving data gathered by the Transportation Research Board. It included the firsthand accounts of over 3,000 drivers who were in a crash. Using this information, the team concluded that highway work zone crashes and near-crashes become 29 times more likely to occur when a driver is inattentive.

Moreover, the length of the period of inattention doesn’t matter. Drivers could be sending a text, which takes approximately five seconds, or they could be adjusting the radio or talking with a fellow occupant in the car.

Since the team was able to use naturalistic driving data rather than rely on the limited data given in crash reports, the results of this study can be beneficial to certain groups, particularly automakers trying to build driverless cars and state transportation agencies trying to improve safety. The study could suggest various “behavioral countermeasures” for improving work zone safety.

Unfortunately, many drivers have unsafe behaviors ingrained into them. When these behaviors contribute to motor vehicle accidents, drivers may be held liable. Though New York is a no-fault state, cases involving serious injuries or disabilities can open the way for a third-party insurance claim. Filing such a claim can be difficult without legal representation, though. Victims may want a lawyer to evaluate their case in light of this state’s comparative negligence rule. An attorney may gather evidence and negotiate a settlement.