Road construction zones are a dreaded, yet inevitable part of any commuters day in all cities. Most of us think of the grumble as we creep through these zones, which almost always translate into extra traffic and added time to reach our next destination. What many of us forget is work zones can be much more than just an additional nuisance to our daily drives, they can be very dangerous, providing new and unexpected hazards. Work zone accidents affect both drivers and workers on the road. In fact, from 2009-2014 the Federal Highway Administration reported 200,000 people were injured and 4,400 people died in road construction crashes. Of the fatalities, 85 percent were drivers or passengers and drivers are the most frequent fatality in any work zone crash.
Additional Hazards Of Work Zones
Driving comes with many inherent dangers, including other motorists, distractions, and road and weather conditions. These driving conditions are multiplied when going through work zones and drivers should exercise even more caution than normal. Although there are many laws in place regarding road construction safety, individual construction crews can make mistakes that make the work zone even more dangerous. Some hazards drivers should be aware of in road construction zones include:
- The possibility of improper signage – For drivers to navigate road construction zones safely, it is crucial that work crews provide appropriate cones and signs. Federal and state regulations dictate how much and what type of signage should be used. Many construction companies and crews, however, fail to utilize proper warning signs, meaning there’s a greater risk for both motorists and workers to sustain injuries.
- Machinery and equipment hazards – Road construction requires the use of heavy machinery and other equipment. It is possible for machinery to malfunction, for construction crews to be careless about where machinery is left in the road, or fail to clean-up equipment properly.
- Difficult turns – The amount of time a motorist needs to safely make a turn varies according to the speed and weight of their vehicle. Sometimes road construction sites fail to take in these factors and create a turn that is sharper than most vehicles are able to handle.
- Construction dirt and debris – Road work may leave roads uneven and full of dirt and debris. These hazards can cause additional problems for motorists, especially if construction crews fail to post appropriate signage warning drivers of the additional hazards.
Accidents In Road Construction Zones
Road construction accidents happen most frequently during daytime hours and several factors contribute to their occurrence. A majority of work zone crashes occur on roads where the speed limit is 55 mph or greater and crash frequency is highest in the summer and autumn. Both drivers and construction crews cause accidents. Vehicle collisions, including rear-end crashes, are especially common. Motorists cause accidents in work zones through negligent behaviors including:
- Failing to follow signs or obey construction workers directing traffic;
- Distracted driving (eating, using cell phone, etc.);
- Improper passing; and
- Driving impaired.
In addition to failing to provide proper signage and leaving equipment and tools in the roadway, construction crews can also cause accidents by improperly directing traffic and dropping materials onto traffic. South Carolina, like most other states, has increased penalties for speeding in work zones to help reduce the number of accidents.
Safety Tips For Avoiding Accidents In Work Zones
While drivers have no control over the hazards created by road work zones or the negligence of construction zone workers, they can help avoid and prevent accidents by taking precautionary steps. Drivers can help promote safety and minimize stress when going through work zones by taking the following steps as they enter a work zone:
- Expect the unexpected – Sudden situational changes are common in work zones. Be aware when entering a work zone that traffic could slow or stop suddenly, equipment or workers may enter the roadway, or traffic lanes merge.
- Reduce your speed – Regardless of whether or not you see any work taking place, it is important that you slow down and follow the posted speed limit. Speeding contributes to or causes as many as 30 percent of work zone accidents.
- Obey road crews – Any signs or traffic direction maintained by crews in a road work zone are meant to keep both drivers and workers safe. Following these signs will help you and other safely through the work zone.
- Maintain a safe following distance – Rear-end collisions account for 30 percent of accidents in work zones. Not only should you have a safe distance between you and other vehicles, but also any construction workers or equipment.
- Avoid distractions – Many drivers admit to using cell phones, eating, putting on makeup, and many other distracting behaviors. Staying focused on the road is even more important than usual while going through a construction zone.
- Merge into the correct lane – Give yourself plenty of time to merge into the correct lane before any lane closures. Even if you drive through the same construction zone daily, be aware that traffic patterns can change daily.
- Change lanes safely – You should only change lanes in places where pavement markings indicate it is okay to do so and when traffic conditions permit it.
- Be patient – Remember, work zones are stressful for everyone. It’s better to be patient and follow directions than try to cruise through a work zone unsafely.
The best way to avoid road work zone accidents, of course, is to avoid going through work zones altogether. If you know there will be road construction on your normal route, plan ahead and take an alternate route to your destination.
Car Accident Attorney in Greenville
Being in any car accident, including those in road work zones, can be very overwhelming. Many people are unsure of their next steps after an accident. If you’re a Greenville driver who has been in an accident, you may be able to collect compensation for any injuries you’ve sustained. Contact the Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm in Greenville, South Carolina for a consultation with an experienced Greenville car accident attorney. We can clear up any questions you have regarding your case and help you get closure for your accident.
Dan Pruitt is a Personal Injury Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from University of Georgia, and has been practicing law for 25 years. Dan Pruitt believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.