Making Road Construction Safe for Everyone

Road construction projects and the summer season seem to run on the same schedule, often to the distress of many of us trying to go about our daily lives. Indeed, billions of dollars and millions of man-hours will be spent on road work in 2013, the bulk of it scheduled for the warmest months of the year.

While traffic delays may be frustrating, drivers must stay alert to the hazards inherent to road construction. “All work zones are dangerous, especially if you’re not paying attention or taking proper precautions,” said Rod Stanley, a Director of Loss Control and Safety for workers’ compensation insurer MEMIC. “Whenever you have workers interrupting the flow of traffic, and who are very near moving vehicles, there’s risk,” he continued, indicating that there are hundreds of fatal crashes in work zones each year.

Road construction is filled with moving parts, between flaggers, surrounding vehicles, and onsite workers. While it’s not possible to control all of these parts around you, you can approach any work zone with confidence by following these guidelines.

  • Be on the lookout for flaggers. Most road construction projects that alter the flow of traffic will use flaggers to direct vehicles safely. Typically located at the shoulder of a work site, flaggers should be easy to spot in their reflective gear. With 20 flaggers killed by motorists each year, though, it’s clear that drivers must be more vigilant about keeping watch for these workers.
  • Put down your cell phone. Mountains of data illustrate the dangers of using a mobile device while driving. Texting while driving, for instance, makes the likelihood of crashing 23 times higher, according to the US Department of Transportation. Circumstances can change at a moment’s notice in a construction zone – don’t compromise your reaction time with cell phone use.
  • Watch your speed. A car driving at 30 miles per hour will likely require over 100 feet to come to a complete stop. Driving more slowly will give you additional time to navigate confusing traffic patterns and react to necessary emergency stops.
  • Maintain a safe distance from workers and other motorists. Transportation incidents account for 40 percent of occupational fatalities in the United States. 70 percent of those are characterized by a motorist hitting a pedestrian worker. By allowing for plenty of space between yourself and others, whether they’re on foot or in a vehicle, you can create a buffer zone for any stops or quick alterations you may have to make.
  • Be courteous. Yes, road construction can be maddening, but flaggers and onsite workers are simply doing their job. Rushing angrily through detours, though, will only increase the likelihood of an accident.

Road construction is unpredictable. Dangerous situations can seem to pop up out of nowhere. By allowing yourself plenty of space to react and limiting distractions, you can ensure a safer interaction with everyone on the road.