DRIVING IN WORK ZONES
New Braunfels, TX, October 4, 2023
At any given moment on any given day, we may find ourselves driving in a work zone. Whether its road construction, accident investigations or a temporary road closure due to work being done adjacent to the road. In 2019 alone, almost 30,000 crashes happened in construction zones just in Texas alone, with an average of over 850 fatalities nationwide. Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and passenger vehicle drivers both need to be particularly careful while traveling through work zones. Trucks and buses have limited maneuverability and large blind spots, both of which make operating in these areas more challenging for them. In fact, large trucks are disproportionately involved in work zone crashes. Work zones present many challenges for trucks – narrow lanes, sudden stops, traffic pattern shifts, and uneven road surfaces require all drivers to stay alert. In fact, large trucks represented in work zone crashes, make up nearly one-third of fatal work zone crashes. It’s critical that all road users approach work zones with caution and do their part to keep the road safe for everyone.
Today we will discuss three key points that are documented measures to reduce work zone driving incidents.
Second, Keep your distance.
Third, Expect the unexpected
Driving through work zones present many challenges for drivers. Often the posted speed limit, which you may normally be used to has been altered to get drivers to slow down. Speed is altered for many reasons such as road damage, equipment in use and of course worker safety. With lowered speeds comes higher fines for violating those speed limits. The reduced speed zone shall be marked in the “Advanced warning area” prior to the work zone. The signage should indicate the step-down speed and if the adjusted limit fines are doubled. What does this mean? In Colorado for instance, a speeding citation for 10-19 over the posted limit holds a fine of $378 and 20 to 24 over the limit $628. Incidents involving speeding 2021-2022, increased by nearly 40 percent over the previous year, which is a sad trend. By speeding through construction zones, it places undue risk on workers and equipment. Speeding and inattentive drivers are the top 2 reasons construction zone wrecks are so common. Unsurprisingly, rear-end collisions are the most common.
There’s a reason the speed limit is reduced in construction zones. There are so many hazards you don’t encounter in other places.
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
Rear end collisions are a leading cause of crashes within work zones. Never tailgate the vehicle in front of you. Often, we get frustrated with the amount of time it taking to travel through a construction zone, so we may find ourselves getting antsy or agitated. Keep calm do not get distracted by the work being completed. It is recommend keeping two-three car lengths between you and the car ahead and maintaining space between your vehicle and construction workers and their equipment. By keeping your distance, you will be better prepared if that vehicle must stop immediately or change lanes abruptly. Often in these work zones there are loose materials such as rocks, packaging, pipes and tools. By maintaining a safe distance, you are giving yourself time to react to avoid a collision.
Having stood roadside myself, the fear of being struck was always present. Making sure you move over when applicable and giving space for you and the workers shows your attention to the conditions. Do not ride the cone line, try and adjust your steering to provide that additional space away from workers and the closure.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Construction zones sometimes present unforeseen and potentially dangerous situations for drivers. Depending on the level of traffic, lanes may unexpectedly close, and vehicles may be redirected in new directions. The best way to remain safe in a construction zone is to proceed with caution and always pay close attention to your surroundings. Be prepared to slow down at any moment, when you see workers or signage in the area, indicating a decreased speed limit. Always expect the unexpected when driving in a construction, or anytime really. That way, you’ll never be surprised, and you’ll always be in control. When driving through a work zone, you should be prepared to deal with more distractions and sudden changes than normal. Stay alert, you should always look for hazards like distracted drivers, construction workers, heavy machinery, flaggers, sudden lane changes, narrow lanes, wildlife, uneven roads and contractor vehicles exiting from the construction zone.
Always pre-plan your trip as discussed on previous safety calls. If possible, avoid work zones all together. If driving through a work zone is unforeseeable remember that construction zones aren’t there to personally inconvenience, you. They’re necessary to improve the roads and to keep everyone safe from surrounding activity. Whether you’re dealing with irresponsible drivers or long delays, the best way to deal with the frustration of driving in a construction zone is to take a deep breath, collect yourself and calm down. Safety always comes first.
If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will get you taken care of.