More than two-thirds of highway contractors responding to a new Associated General Contractors of America survey say that motor vehicles crashed into their work zones over the past 12 months and almost one-fifth reported construction-worker fatalities in those accidents.

AGC released the survey on April 23, near the start of National Work Zone Awareness Week, a joint industry-government effort to put a spotlight on the dangers on highway job sites and reduce fatalities and injuries.

There has been progress. According to U.S. Dept. of Transportation statistics, there were 576 deaths in highway work zones in 2010, the most recent data available, down 15% from 2009’s total of 680 and far below the 1,006 fatalities recorded in 2006. 

Brian Turmail, an AGC spokesman, says, “Any improvement is something we’d very much welcome.” He credits efforts by government and law-enforcement officials to urge motorists to drive more safely in job sites and also says many contractors are “taking pretty aggressive actions” to protect their workers. 

But he adds, “We’re not going to stop until the fatality number is zero and injury number is zero, if we can get it there.” 

One surprising finding of the AGC survey was that construction workers were slightly more likely to die in vehicular work zone accidents than motorists were. Specifically, 18% of contractors responding to the survey said they had workers die in highway jobsite accidents and 15% of firms said there were driver or passenger fatalities in such crashes. 

But US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood said in an April 23 blog posting that 10% to 15% of work zone deaths were workers and 85% to 90% were motorists or passengers. 

Turmail said that portion of the AGC survey findings “caught us by surprise. We did not expect that.”