Spring heralds a time of new growth. The signs are all around us – the grass is greening up, flowers are popping out, and the foliage is reappearing on the trees and shrubs. However, one sign of spring demands more or our attention behind the wheel – the proliferation of those orange barrels that announce the beginning of the road construction season.
Every eight hours, somebody dies in a work zone related accident. That is three people every day. And every nine minutes, someone is injured in a highway work zone. That translates into 160 a people a day.
The reality is that many of these accidents, injuries, and deaths can be avoided if we keep the following safe driving tips in mind:
- Expect the unexpected. Work zones, and the traffic delays that come with them, can occur at any hour of the day or night and can often come without warning. Traffic lanes may be changed and people may be working on or near the road. Although speed limits may be reduced, many motorists fail to heed them. More alarming, many rush toward the front of the traffic tie-ups and try to squeeze in at the last minute – often targeting a commercial motor vehicle for their point of entry. Don’t let any of this behavior surprise or frustrate you. Expect it and don’t over-react to it.
- Slow down. Speeding is one of the leading causes of work zone related crashes so slow down and take your time.
- Don’t tailgate. Keep a safe following distance between you and the vehicle in front of you – even if that means that other motorists try to squeeze in front of you. Remember, the most common crash in a highway work zone is the rear end collision. So, don't tailgate. And keep an eye on your mirrors.
- Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the construction workers and their equipment. This demands the utmost skill as a professional driver. Barrels or barriers often restrict the lanes giving less margin of error. Further complicating this, inexperienced drivers often feel hemmed in and tend to shy away from these barriers.
- Pay attention to the signs. The warning signs are there to help traffic move safely through the work zone. Observe the posted signs until you see the one that says you've left the work zone. This includes when it appears that nobody is working in the work zone.
- Obey road crew flaggers. The flagger knows what is best for moving traffic safely in the work zone. A flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign and you can receive a citation for not obeying his or her directions.
- Stay alert and minimize distractions. Dedicate your full attention to the roadway and resist the temptation to get on your cell phone while driving through the zone.
- Keep up with the traffic flow. Motorists can help maintain traffic flow and posted speeds by merging as soon as possible. Don't drive right up to the lane closure and then try barge in.
- Do an adequate pre-trip. This means checking your route of travel in advance and scheduling enough time to safely complete your trip. Expect delays and give yourself plent of time to reach your destination on time. A great resource is the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse (http://www.workzonesafety.org/). This website contains information on work zone delays throughout the country.
- Stay patient and remain calm. Work zones aren't there to personally inconvenience you. Remember, the work zone crew members are working to improve the road and make your job easier.
Please be safe!
Courtesy of the National Private Truck Council (NPTC)
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