Navigating Road Construction: Awareness and Safety
In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, work zone crashes & fatalities climbed despite lower traffic volumes, what’s more troubling is the USDOT reporting a spike in Road Fatalities for 2021. With the weather changing and the inevitable “Road Construction Season” in full gear; this week’s post will focus on road safety within Construction Zones. We will review the areas that make up a construction zone and how to navigate these sites cautiously and safely.
Road Construction Zones
Work zones are hazardous for both motorists and the workers on site. Road construction zones are designed to provide advanced warning and limit the distance and speed at which passing vehicles approach workers and/or equipment. The USDOT and the Federal Highway Administration break the Stages of Work Zones down into 4 areas:
- Advance warning area - tells traffic what to expect ahead
- Transition Area - moves traffic out of the normal path
- Activity Area - is where work takes place
- Termination Area - lets traffic resume normal operations
The distance of each zone can be determined by several factors including the type of road (highway, single lane, side road, etc.), the equipment involved, the area (hazards) surrounding the zone, and the rate of speed the zone is limited by.
To navigate road construction sites safely we must first understand the common factors that lead to accidents:
- Lack of Attention/Awareness
- Inadequate distance - average stopping distance for motor vehicles.
- Speed – In 2020 37% of all work zone crashes involved speed as a factor
- Conditions - Environmental
- Impatience of motorists
When approaching construction zones drivers should
- avoid changing lanes,
- if possible look well ahead (beyond the car directly in front of them),
- be aware of their surroundings (including the traffic behind, or beside them)
- and be ready to make sudden stops.
Traveling through the Transition, Activity, and Termination areas pay close attention to all posted signs and look for Flaggers whose directions supersede any posted or implied traffic signals. Workers on-site will be equipped with High Visibility and reflective apparel and easily identified.
Road construction can be an annoyance for all motorists however it is vital to relieve road congestion, reduce accidents, and even limit the wear/damage to vehicles. It has been stated that infrastructure development makes a crucial contribution to economic development and growth. It is important to practice patients and plan ahead. Remember we all want to proceed with our day, an accident will only cause further delays.
“Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.” – Jon Kabat Zinn