It may seem like Texas moves right from the spring rains into a hot summer, but lifelong residents know about the unspoken season in between: construction season. Millions of construction workers take to the roadside each year to improve driving conditions on U.S. highways—and while they may seem vulnerable and exposed next to speeding traffic, it’s actually drivers who are most at risk in a crash.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, more than 4,000 people were killed in work zone crashes in the past five years, over 85 percent of whom were drivers or passengers. Since warm weather makes for ideal outdoor working conditions, the number of accidents is highest during the summer months.
Here are a few key things to remember if you hope to avoid a work zone crash this summer:
- Take the slow road. Most fatal work zone crashes happen on roads with speed limits over 50 mph. If you’re planning a long trip, check the traffic and construction reports for your planned route. If you can avoid the highway for a portion of your journey, you will greatly reduce your chances of an accident—and you may even reach your destination more quickly.
- Keep your eyes and ears open. Distractions are deadly while behind the wheel at all times, but are especially dangerous in a construction zone. If you see a construction sign, turn your radio down and ask all passengers to be quiet until you are safely in the clear. Do not use cellphones, eat, or do anything else that takes your concentration off the road. You need to be alert to telltale signs of danger, such as sudden brake lights, traffic buildup, heavy machinery, nearby workers, and rerouted lanes.
- Slow down early. The most common type of work zone accident is a rear-end crash, and is most commonly caused by a driver braking too late to avoid stopped traffic. Always slow down the moment you see posted construction warnings, and increase your following distance just in case of sudden braking.
- Follow the rules. Driving during road construction can be stressful—even infuriating—but the best way to get through it is to remain calm and drive normally. If your lane is redirected, merge as soon as possible before your lane closure and keep your speed low and consistent.
- Expect the unexpected. You must remain on the alert for all dangers, not just known risks of construction work. Uneven lanes can grab your tires, other vehicles may enter your lane without warning, and rain and high winds can make it difficult to see and steer.
Experienced Drivers Are Less Likely to Become Involved in Accidents
As with most car crashes, the people who are most at risk of work zone accidents are those who are not familiar with the rules of the road. You can help protect the ones you love by sharing this article with them on Facebook, or by having a conversation with your kids and friends about safe driving at your next get-together.