Work Zone Safety

Typically everyone breathes a sigh of relief as they emerge from winter. Thank goodness that nasty weather is over! What many drivers may not realize is that the odds of being involved in a serious, possibly fatal collision actually go up as the weather gets warmer. Is it any coincidence that speeds increase too?

Road construction also picks up during the warmer months and whether it’s a daily commute, or travelling out of town for business or pleasure, everyone eventually encounters a work zone. And unfortunately thousands of totally preventable accidents will occur there, altering and ending thousands of lives. In 2008 alone, 720 people died in highway work zones.

Although reduced speed limits are normally posted well in advance of the work zone entrance, all too often these are ignored by motorists. Even if no workers or equipment are present, the work zone is still dangerous.

Driving through work zones can be like running an obstacle course. Lane closures, chicanes, barriers and dividers, two-way traffic, uneven road surface, drop-offs, poor lighting and flashing lights can cause motorist to react in an unpredictable manner. Truck drivers sitting up higher have a better view than drivers in passenger vehicles. Cars that can’t see as far slow to a crawl or even stop in the middle of the road as drivers becomes confused and misunderstand signs or flagger directions.

Chain reactions in construction zones are not uncommon. Flaggers have been killed when vehicles they had stopped are subsequently knocked into them by another other motorist that failed to stop.

Rollovers can also occur in construction zones due to narrower lanes, lack of shoulder and roadway dropoff. Rollovers frequently result in driver and occupant fatality, particularly when seatbelts are not in use. Ejected occupants are crushed by the vehicle.

Construction equipment in the work zone also pose unique hazard. Typically over dimensional, oversize and overweight, they are either not moving at all or moving very slowly, crossing the roadway, obstructing traffic or blocking the view of people and other vehicles. Many truck drivers have lost their lives after rearending slow moving construction equipment.

Even at slow speeds, disaster still occurs. Workers have been killed when vehicles - particularly dump trucks, backed over them due to limited visibility or loud noise in the work zone resulting in communication failures.

The bottom line is this. A construction zone is a work zone. Workers in the area are performing a hazardous job and need to pay attention to what they are doing. Even if there are no workers present, the construction zone is still a hazardous area. Drivers entering, driving through, and exiting construction zones need to pay attention to what they are doing, respect the dangers present and drive defensively.