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Topeka construction zone death adds to rising Kansas toll

The victim in an early August crash on Interstate 470 in Topeka was a 22-year-old construction worker. KDOT reported that the construction worker's death was the only one in Shawnee County in 2012, the fifth fatality in a county work zone since 2000.

Car accidents within Kansas construction zones have gone up in the last few years and so have the number of fatalities. More than 1,600 work zone crashes were reported last year. Almost 400 involved injuries. Eleven people died.

Fewer construction zone collisions took place in 2010, although the injury count was about the same as last year's figures. Four people lost their lives in over 1,550 crashes. All of the victims who died were in a vehicle.

KDOT officials said the agency and its contractors are vigilant about the safety of construction zone employees. Safety training updates and on-site inspections are frequent. Despite the preventive measures, construction zone workers and motorists remain at risk often because drivers aren't paying attention.

According to the KDOT fatality report, drivers seem to have more at stake than employees do during work zone crashes. Agency officials said accidents in construction zones are rarely caused by driver confusion.

Distracted driving was responsible for 75 percent of the car wrecks in state construction zones during the three-year period. Most of the crashes happened during the day. Ninety percent occurred when the weather was not a factor.

Criminal charges have not been filed in the Topeka construction worker's death. The accident investigation is not complete. The family of the road worker could decide to file a wrongful death claim, if it is shown that driver neglect contributed to the fatal accident. The civil suit may be filed whether or not charges are levied by police.

Source: cjonline.com, "Work zone crashes on the rise in Kansas," Corey Jones, Aug. 12, 2012

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