Dear YouDig?

Topic: Be Bright! Live in the Light!


BULLETIN: Highway construction zones are among the most dangerous places on earth.

Today we begin our 3 part “Dear YouDig?” Series to Highlight Highway Construction Safety.

Part I:  Be Bright! Live in the Light

Part II:   Not So Fast Speedie

Part III: Drop that Phone You Drunken Fool


Dear YouDig?

I am  a highway patrol officer. It’s now road construction season. Most are enjoying the warmer weather and traveling to see friends and family. Sadly, every construction season we see catastrophic accidents in our interstate highway construction zones.

We were recently called to a nighttime scene where a couple in a sedan rear ended a slow moving dump truck while it hauled materials from a highway construction site. The contractor properly marked with reflective tape, all lights were working and the driver was operating the truck carefully. The truck, however, became progressively dirty throughout its trips. The reflective tape and lights were dimmed by mud and dust. Traveling across country, the couple was speeding, didn’t see the slow moving truck in time and could not avoid the collision. Tragically, both died from their injuries at the scene.

I know there are many construction zone safety laws… but still the accidents.  Any tips for contractors and the public?

-Stay Safe

Dear Stay Safe,

Thank you for all that you do for us. Your empathy for the situation is admirable. A road construction zone is one of the most dangerous places on earth. The fate of motorists, employees and road contractors can change in a flash. Legally required safety measures abound. Some regulations relate to the contractor and its site and equipment: bright colors on workers, equipment and barricades, off duty officers to manage traffic and use of the median. Other regulations relate to drivers entering the zone: speed limits, lane shifts, no passing, lane markings and the like.

Now… imagine the perils of night construction. Sure–it is performed with less traffic but is even more risky because… well, it is DARK. Therefore, VISABILITY is the key for night construction safety. The zone and all the people and equipment operating in the zone must be discernable to those in and those entering the zone. Contractors, you should expect that many will enter the “dark” zone in various states of awareness and confusion. Don’t cut corners and do “just enough.” When it comes to safety, your company is on the line. Drivers, need we say SLOOWWWWW DOWN? EASE UP ON THE GAS AND ARRIVE SAFELY!

In this case, the contractor allowed a dirty truck to merge into shared traffic lanes. Regrettably, the contractor contributed to the accident because it should and could have made sure its trucks remain discernable throughout the shift. Sadly, the driver of the sedan contributed to the accident by speeding, thereby cutting down reaction time.

Could there have been more done to alert the driver that the zone was dangerous in the miles before the collision? We are sure those questions have been asked again and again. In the end, safety measures are a function of cost. Cost in time. Cost in money. Here, not enough was done and two lives were lost.

Contractors, develop a procedure to start out a shift with clean vehicles AND FINISH THAT WAY. Drivers, enter construction zones at the respective posted speed limit. Enough said.



John Swansinger is the author and founder of YouDig and is a partner in Buckingham, Doolittle & Burrough, LLC‘s real estate and construction practice group. He works with contractors, developers and construction owners on construction law issues including construction contracts, commercial agreements, construction litigation, subcontractor issues, insurance liability, breach of contract and more. He can be reached at or 216.615.7356.

YouDig is an online resource that connects the construction community with vital issues affecting the industry and is a component of the business law firm Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLC that is specifically geared toward construction.