Find Your Perfect Policy: 866-843-5386

Last updated: April 3, 2024

Dangers of Distraction: Nearly 500 Road Workers and First Responders Hit and Killed By Cars Since 2020

In 2023 alone, 74 workers were hit and killed by cars on the job. More than half of these workers were first responders.

Twitter brand
Facebook brand
Linkedin brand
Reddit brand
Envelop icon

Distractions behind the wheel can prove extremely dangerous and—too often—even fatal. The unfortunate yet stark reality of distracted driving is that it puts not only other drivers at risk but also pedestrians, tow truck drivers, construction workers, police officers, and other first responders along the roadside. A moment’s decision to view a text or scroll through social media could mean a life tragically cut short in the line of duty.

Underscoring the devastating stakes involved in driving distracted can help bring awareness of its consequences to drivers of all ages to save the lives of many. We analyzed data from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), fatality reports from, and survey results from the Associated General Contractors of America to understand how many people are hit by vehicles while at work. Each news story, obituary, or heartfelt tribute to those fallen in the line of duty exemplifies yet another reason to take operating your vehicle more seriously the next time you drive—undistracted.

Key Findings

  • Approximately 487 workers have been struck and killed by cars since 2020. Many were tow truck operators, construction workers, and law enforcement officers.
  • In the first two months of 2024, 10 first responders were hit and killed by cars.
  • The top three situations in which first responders were hit and killed by cars were responding to a disabled vehicle, responding to a crash scene, or simply directing traffic.
  • 58% of contractors felt that the risk of highway work zone crashes increased year over year, mostly due to cell phone usage.
  • In 2023, nearly 1 in 10 workplace fatalities tracked by OSHA were due to vehicle strikes.

How Many Workers Die Annually From Being Hit by Cars or Trucks?

From 2020 to February 2024, 487 workers died while on the job due to vehicle strikes. From 2020 to 2023, an average of 122 workers were killed each year due to being hit by a car. The number of workers hit by vehicles in the last four years peaked in 2021, with 150 lives senselessly lost.

How many workers have been hit and killed by vehicles

Work zones are dangerous for drivers and workers. Fatal car crashes occurring near road construction zones sharply spiked by 63 percent from 2010 to 2021.1 Although the number of workers killed by vehicle strikes decreased from 2022 to 2023, the overall percentage stayed mostly consistent year over year, at about eight percent of all workplace fatalities tracked by OSHA.

Year Percent of OSHA workplace fatalities caused by being hit by vehicle
2020 7%
2021 7%
2022 9%
2023 9%

Source: Fatality Inspection Data – Occupational Safety and Health Administration

First-Hand Perspectives From Front-Line Workers

Distracted driving contributes to preventable loss of life in several occupations. Workers fatally injured by vehicular strikes engage in various activities shortly before their untimely deaths, including:

  • Making traffic stops
  • Performing road construction or maintenance
  • Loading vehicles onto tow trucks
  • Directing traffic

Survey results from the 2022 Work Zone Awareness Survey performed by the Heavy Construction Systems Specialists (HCSS)  and Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America demonstrate the real-life working conditions experienced by those on the front lines. Indeed, 64 percent of contractors reported one or more crashes in a work zone from 2021 to 2022. Fifty-eight percent of workers agreed that the risk of highway work zone crashes was greater in 2022 than the previous year.2

Why do you think highway work zone construction is more dangerous today than one year ago?

Reason Percentage
Phones 81%
Speeding 71%
Traffic 62%
Other 43%

Source: 2022 Work Zone Awareness Survey, Heavy Construction Systems Specialists and Associated General Contractors

When asked about the potential reasons for the increase in danger, most workers blamed phone use, followed by speeding.

Wherein lies the solution? Many workers in the 2022 Work Zone Awareness Survey agreed that greater police presence, stricter enforcement of laws, closing roads, and detouring traffic near work sites would help increase safety. Of course, a majority of workers in the study called for the creation of stricter laws against distracted driving, including cell phone use.

First Responders Are Vulnerable to Being Hit by Cars

Over half of workers killed by car strikes in 2023 were first responders, including police officers, firefighters, and tow truck drivers.

How many first responders are killed

Cases of first responders falling victim to car crashes in the line of duty plague the news nationwide. Heartbreaking stories put faces and names to tow truck drivers in West Virginia, Texas, and Indiana killed while assisting drivers with broken-down vehicles.3456 A flagger fatally injured in North Carolina, a deputy deploying spike strips, and an EMT helping victims at a crash scene join the list of those deceased after losing their lives on the front lines.789 The Trooper Taylor Thyfault highway in Colorado memorializes the location where a young police officer who, after warning a local truck driver to stay clear of the road, succumbed to the very danger he spoke of in a cruel twist of fate.10

Top 5 situations where first responders were hit and killed by vehicles (2020-present)

  1. Responding to a disabled vehicle
  2. Responding to a crash scene
  3. Directing traffic
  4. Making a traffic stop
  5. Vehicular assault

Vehicle strikes rank among the top causes of death among maintenance workers, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), law enforcement officers, and recovery specialists, per the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).11 Vehicular assault cases, defined as using a vehicle to threaten or cause harm to another person,12 also ranked in the top five situations involving first responders and vehicle strikes. While state laws surrounding vehicular assault vary, punishment ranges from jail time and fines to vehicular homicide felony charges.

State Fatality Rates

All 50 states have enacted “Move Over” laws, which dictate how drivers must act when approaching an emergency vehicle.13 Namely, drivers should “move over” a lane if and when it’s safe or slow down as they pass. South Carolina enacted the first “Move Over” law in 1996, and Hawaii was the last state to adopt a similar law in 2012.14

Oregon sustained the highest population-adjusted rate of worker deaths resulting from a vehicle strike from 2020 to 2023: 0.4 deaths per 100,000 residents. In that same period, Texas had the highest number of workers who were hit and killed by vehicles. 44 percent of the 50 workers killed by vehicles in Texas were first responders, and 16 percent were law enforcement officers. When comparing raw numbers, individual states with the most deaths from a vehicle strike tended to be among the largest states. Vermont had no workers killed by vehicle strikes between 2020 and 2023.

States with highest rate of worker deaths from vehicle strikes per 100,000 (2020-2023) States with highest number of worker deaths from vehicle strikes (2020-2023)
Oregon 0.40 Texas 50
Wyoming 0.34 California 38
Hawaii 0.28 Florida 32
Alaska 0.27 Georgia 25
Oklahoma 0.25 New York 23

Missouri and Montana are the only states without total bans on texting and driving, which could put roadway workers at undue risk. Montana has no texting and driving ban in place, while Missouri only bans drivers 21 and younger from sending messages behind the wheel.15 However, Missouri’s House Bill 499 (also called Lyndon’s Law) grants the state’s Department of Revenue the ability to revoke a driver’s license if the driver strikes an emergency responder, highway worker, or utility worker.16 Between 2020 and 2023, eight workers in Missouri were killed due to vehicle strikes.

A national poll sponsored by the National Safety Commission found that 71 percent of Americans were unfamiliar with “Move Over” laws.17 Yet 90 percent recognize the dangers first responders and law enforcement officers face in conducting traffic stops and assisting with roadside emergencies. If you don’t already know your state’s “Move Over” laws, take a moment to review what to do in these critical situations—after all, it could make a crucial difference in someone’s life.

Conclusion: Stay Vigilant and Save Lives on the Road

Every driver has a role to play in ensuring pedestrians and workers in the roadway are always safe. Here are a few things drivers can do today to save lives:

  1. Stay alert and vigilant: Pay close attention to road signs, cones, and any indicators of construction zones or maintenance work ahead. Be particularly cautious in areas where road work is known to occur.
  2. Reduce speed: Slow down when approaching construction zones or areas where workers are present. Reduced speed gives you more time to react to unexpected situations and provides workers a safer environment.
  3. Follow traffic signs and signals: Obey all traffic signs and signals, especially those that indicate speed limits and warnings about construction or maintenance work. These signs are designed to alert drivers to potential hazards and guide them safely through the area.
  4. Avoid distractions: Keep your focus on the road and avoid distractions such as using mobile phones, eating, or adjusting the radio. Distractions can significantly impair your ability to react quickly to changes in road conditions, including the presence of workers.
  5. Give workers ample space: When passing through a construction zone or past emergency responders, give them plenty of space. Stay within designated lanes and avoid unnecessary lane changes. Also, be mindful of any instructions given by flaggers or other workers directing traffic.

Our data

Our analysis included Fatality Inspection Data collected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA data includes work-related fatalities that occurred under Federal OSHA and State Plan jurisdiction for cases that have been closed. The data does not include workers who died due to Covid-19. Our analysis included fatalities that occurred between January 2020 and February 2024. OSHA does not track fatalities that occur on the job in certain fields or locations, such as law enforcement, so we combined this data with records from

We included fatalities from 2020 to February 2024 in our analysis. This group tracks the number of first responders killed by vehicle strikes while performing their work duties, including firefighters, EMS, police, tow operators, and other emergency workers. We compared the data sets and removed duplicate records between the OSHA and reports. The analysis does not include workers who were struck by vehicles that fell from auto repair lifts or workers killed while operating or riding in cars that were involved in crashes.


  1. MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY ISSUES. National Safety Council. (2024).

  2. 2022 Work Zone Awareness Survey Results. HCSS Software Solutions and AGC The Construction Association. (2023).

  3. West Virginia tow truck driver struck by vehicle succumbs to injuries. Lootpress. (2024, Feb 16).

  4. Tragedy Strikes on I-20: Tow Operator Killed in FedEx Truck Collision. The Poeple’s Network. (2024, Feb 8).

  5. Tow truck driver killed while loading up disabled vehicle along Northwest Freeway, HCSO says. ABC 13 Eyewitness News. (2024, Feb 14).

  6. Tow truck driver killed in crash on Indiana Toll Road. 16 News Now. (2024, Jan 18).

  7. Construction worker killed Fri. after being struck by motorist. The Taylorsville Times. (2020, Mar 31).

  8. Chief Deputy Sheriff Ken Prorok. Officer Down Memorial Page. (2024, Feb 2).

  9. FL EMT Killed at Accident Scene Coming Home from Shift. Journal of Emergency Medical Services. (2024, Feb 12).

  10. HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION 17-1023. State of Colorado. (2017).

  11. Motorists Reminded to Move Over for First Responders. Colorado Department of Transportation News. (2021, Nov 8).

  12. Criminal Vehicular Assault Under the Law. JUSTIA. (2024).

  13. First Responder Safety. United States Department of Transportation. (2024).

  14. Get the Facts: Move Over. It’s the Law. National Highway Traffic Safety Association. (2024).

  15. Missouri work zone crashes double despite half the traffic. Equipment World. (2022, Apr 7).

  16. Hit A Worker (Lyndon’s Law). Missouri Department of Transportation. (2024).

  17. Move Over, America Public Service Announcement. Move Over America. (2024).