Road Work Ahead: Driving Safely in Construction Zones
Throughout the year, no matter where you’re driving, you’re going to come across a construction zone. You’ll see the signs that say “Road Construction Ahead” and “Construction Zone” or simply “Road Work” and “Detour Ahead.” The sign that might grab your attention will read “Traffic Fines Double in Work Zones.”
With the cones and the construction workers in their helmets, plus plenty of road signs to give you warning, the question remains: How can I drive safely through a construction zone? What are the rules and laws as I drive in a construction zone?
Let’s find out with these safety tips in road work areas.
Springtime is right around the corner, and that means sunshine, flowers and driving with your windows down! But unfortunately, in many areas, springtime is the start of road construction season – that time of year when orange cones and construction zones slow down traffic and can even cause traffic confusion and a higher likelihood for crashes.
Road work zones can also be dangerous, both for those who are driving on the roads around them and for the workers completing necessary road repairs. We all know why: lanes can be narrower than usual, the traffic patterns are typically different than you’re used to, large construction trucks and other vehicles can be entering and exiting the road where you don’t expect them to – the list goes on and on. In fact, between 1982 and 2014, 24,745 individuals lost their lives in work zone crashes.
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Here are some tips to ensure the experience of driving in a road work zone is a safe one for all:
Be Aware of Construction Zones
A construction zone typically doesn’t just sneak up on you – there should be several orange construction zone signs alerting you to the upcoming work area. There are sometimes also orange cones, barrels and traffic flaggers, and additional signs if traffic patterns change. Make sure you aren’t distracted when you’re behind the wheel so that you can be aware of upcoming construction. Once you’ve entered the zone, slow down and pay attention to the road for workers, obstacles and machinery.
Work zones have a different, lower speed limit than other areas of the road to keep workers safe, so pay close attention to the posted signs when you’re in a construction zone. Make sure you slow down and follow the speed limits – with a lot of vehicles coming in and out, it’s important to be able to stop quickly. Keep in mind that speeding fines in a construction zone can also be higher than normal (sometimes double), so this tip can potentially also save you money!
If you can, it’s best to avoid changing lanes in the midst of a construction zone. If you need to change lanes because of traffic pattern changes due to a construction zone, make sure you do so before the road work starts. Follow the pavement markings and change lanes only when they indicate you’re able to.
In some cases, mostly when work construction is on local roads, there will be a traffic flagger. Their instructions should supersede any other traffic signals, so pay close attention to what they are instructing you to do. You should also keep your vehicle as far from them as possible, without leaving your lane.
Uneven Pavement and More
Once they’re done with road work, the roads will be smooth and as good as new, but sometimes it’s a bumpy road to get there (literally!). When driving through work zones, expect a rough ride. There may sometimes be uneven roads, gravel surfaces and even large metal plates. Don’t try to swerve to avoid these areas – if you’re driving slowly enough, your car should remain safe. Also, keep in mind if you swerve and run over an orange cone or barrel, you are responsible for any damage to your vehicle.
Other tips for staying safe in a work construction zone include:
- Keep your headlights on
- Don’t tailgate – maintain safe following distances
- Be patient
- Expect the unexpected
- Steer your car away from large machines (without leaving your lane)
- Buckle up
Keep these tips in mind as you encounter any construction zones in your area, and avoid traffic fines associated with construction area on the road.