Some of the riskiest locations for roadway collisions are work zones, as they often result in changes in traffic patterns and right of way, along with workers present and large commercial vehicles on the scene.
Work zones are designed to improve the safety of workers who are enhancing or repairing roads, freeways, bridges, sewage and other infrastructure by separating construction and maintenance activities from traffic. The crews do that by providing a safe route for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists and a safe area for the workers on the scene.
That stew of activity and unpredictability sadly results in carnage. In 2019, 842 people died in work zones in the U.S., up from 757 in 2018.
The most common types of fatal accidents in work zones are:
- Crashes involving a commercial vehicle: 33%
- Crashes caused by speeding: 31%
- Rear-end collisions: 24%
Safety tips for drivers
The Federal Highway Administration recommends the following when driving into or in road work zones:
- Pay attention to work zone signs.
- Watch for workers. In 2019, 135 workers were killed in highway work zones.
- Slow down. Speeding can lead to crashes with other vehicles and with field workers. Make sure to obey posted work zone speed limits
- Leave enough space between you and the motorist in front of you.
- Be prepared to stop or slow unexpectedly. Work zone activity often leads to congestion, delays and traffic queues.
- Expect to stop when you see a “Flagger Ahead” sign.
- If stopped or slowed in a traffic queue, consider turning on your flashers to warn traffic coming up behind you if you are last in line.
- Watch for traffic and workers going into or out of the work zone.
- Use caution around large vehicles. Large vehicles have a slower reaction time, so refrain from making sudden lane changes in front of trucks or buses that are trying to slow down.
- Get into the open lane as soon as possible at lane closures.
- Keep everyone safe. Be respectful of workers, fellow drivers and all road users.
- Use alternative routes to avoid work zones whenever feasible.
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