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Have you ever driven through a work zone and thought “Thank goodness for those men and women in orange. Without them, our roads would be a mess!” In truth, most of us probably have not. We tend to view work zones as a big inconvenience – a time-stealer that slows us down and causes us to be late. Distracted by our thoughts, conversations and hand-held mobile devices, we barely notice that there are people on the other side of those cones and barrels – men and women who put their personal safety on the line to improve our streets, roads, bridges and highways.
Of the almost 33,000 fatal motor vehicle traffic accidents that occurred on U.S. highways last year, 609 of those took place in work zones.
Since fatal work zone crashes occur most often in the summer and fall, July seems like the perfect time to remind motorists of the critical part they play in keeping everyone safe. By simply paying attention to what’s going on around them, drivers can cut work zone accidents significantly. Minimizing distractions is the first critical step, but a good plan for work-zone survival should include much more. Here are our top ten tips:
- Stay alert. The situation requires full concentration.
- Pay close attention. Watch for electronic message boards and signs.
- Slow down. Adhere to the posted speed limits.
- Obey the flaggers. They know what they’re doing and they’re there for a reason.
- Don’t tailgate. Rear-end crashes are the most common type of work zone accident. Leave breaking room between you and the car in front of you (approximately one car length for every 10 mph).
- Keep with the flow of traffic. Watch for merging and changes in speed.
- Don’t change lanes while in the work zone.
- Keep a safe distance between your vehicle, the construction workers and their equipment.
- Make a plan. Avoid peak travel hours, expect delays, leave early or find an alternate route.
- Be patient and remain calm. The workers aren’t there to ruin your day. They are working to make the roads better for travel.
Everyone is at risk in a work zone. In fact, approximately 85% of work zone fatalities involve the driver or a passenger. Regardless of who is injured or killed, it’s disheartening to know that these types of accidents could be completely avoided. By simply acting in a safe manner, we can make work-zone transitions a smoother, less annoying experience. And better yet, we may even save a life.