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Highway Construction Zone Safety for Drivers

Does it make you nervous to drive through a highway construction zone?

Highway Construction Zone Safety for Drivers - Altizer Law

Highway Construction Zone

Many people become anxious when driving through these areas. A number of construction vehicles are parked on shoulders, construction vehicles are entering of leaving lanes of traffic, lanes are narrow, and unexpected detours or lane changes are required. Some people become frustrated by the need to slow down; sometimes their driving in highway construction zones becomes very dangerous. There are, however, things you can do to be safer in these areas. The approach of spring, and the beginning of the highway construction season, is a good time to remember the actions that will increase safety for drivers.

By the Numbers

During the period of 2009 and 2014, the Federal Highway Administration reported 4,400 fatalities and more than 200,000 injuries in highway construction zones. Further, drivers were the most frequent fatalities.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has reported data for 2014 and 2015. In 2014, there were 4071 crashes, 1859 injuries, and 15 work zone fatalities. One pedestrian was killed and 29 were injured. In 2015, there were 2600 crashes, 1401 injuries, and 7 fatalities. Two pedestrians were killed and 34 were injured. While there was a significant decrease in the number of work zone crashes, injuries and fatalities, there was an increase in the number of pedestrians injured or killed.

VDOT also identified the kind of crashes that occurred during these two years:

  • 1381 crashes (53%) were rear end crashes.
  • 439 crashes (17%) were angle collisions.
  • 268 crashes (10%) were sideswipe collisions with vehicles going in the same direction.

Work or Construction Zone crashes can escalate very quickly, involving additional vehicles or workers or pedestrians in the zone. This  account, from VDOT, demonstrated the escalation of a crash: “In November of 2015 an eastbound motorist on the Interstate in Newport News was traveling in the right lane (Vehicle #3) when the vehicle struck the Work Operations Vehicle (Vehicle #2) in the rear, pushing Vehicle #2 into the left lane. The driver of vehicle #1 then struck a vehicle on the left rear side, and then ran off the road to the left, striking a tree and killing the driver of vehicle #1. Vehicle #3 then ran off the road to the right and struck vehicle #4 (A Work Operation Vehicle) which was parked on the right side before vehicle #3 ran into the ditch. “

According to the Federal Highway Administration, work or construction zone fatal crashes involve working-age adults. These crashes are more common during the summer and fall months. The majority of fatal crashes occurred on roads with speed limits above 50 mph.

What You Can Do to Be Safer in Highway Construction Zones

Remind yourself of the stopping distance at various driving speeds. For example, the stopping distance for your vehicle at 50 mph is

  • Dry road: 300 feet
  • Wet road: 400 feet
  • Icy pavement: 1250 feet
  • A loaded 80,000 pound tractor-trailer needs an additional 50% of stopping distance.
  • The difference between driving 1 mile at 45 mph and driving 1 mile at 65 mph is only 25 seconds.

The Federal Highway Administration recommends these steps for driver safety:

  1. Don’t Tailgate.
  2. Obey the posted work zone speed limit.
  3. Keep your headlights on to make your vehicle easy to see.
  4. Pay attention to the road.
  5. Eliminate distractions and remain alert to unexpected events.
  6. Merge into the correct land gracefully – don’t race to the last foot of highway before merging.
  7. Make safe lane changes, and change lanes only when instructed to do so.
  8. Be alert for and obey flaggers.
  9. Watch for the unexpected.
  10. Keep your cool: it is better to arrive late than not to arrive at all.

If you or a loved one is injured in a Highway Construction Zone, and the crash was not your fault, call the experienced attorneys of Altizer Law, P.C..