According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), 720 motorists and workers were killed in highway work zones in 2008, the most recent year for which data is available. Perhaps surprisingly, roughly 85% of the victims were drivers and their passengers, not workers, who might at first appear to be more exposed to danger. This summer, as road construction crews are out in force during the warmer months, all drivers need to remain vigilant while in construction work zones.
To that end, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) recommends that we all learn to manage the "Three S’s" of safe work zone driving: speed, space, and stress.
MANAGE YOUR SPEED*
- Slow Down when approaching all work zones. You will be in the work zone more quickly than you think.
- Follow Posted Speed Limits, especially within construction zones, and try to maintain a consistent speed with the traffic flow. And adjust your speed for weather conditions.
- Don’t Resume Normal Speed until you see roadway signs indicating it’s safe to do so.
MANAGE YOUR SPACE*
- Leave Room. Leave adequate braking room between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. Count out at least two seconds from the time the car ahead of you passes an object and the time your own car passes that object. Also, keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment and workers.
- Don’t Pass on the Shoulder. Don’t drive across the median. This creates a very dangerous situation for you, construction workers, and other motorists — not to mention the steep fine.
- Leave Yourself an Out. When stopped in traffic, leave a safety zone between you and the vehicle in front of you. A good rule of thumb is that when stopped in traffic you should be able to see the bottom of the tires of the vehicle in front of you.
- Watch Out for Tailgaters. Do not force tailgaters to back off by slamming on your brakes or reducing your speed significantly. This practice can lead to road rage and increases the chances of a collision. When possible, pull over and let them pass. If this is not possible, turn your headlights on and off several times during daylight hours to illuminate your tail lights and warn tailgaters they are too close. If at night, lightly tap your brake pedal to illuminate your brake lights.
MANAGE YOUR STRESS*
- Keep Your Cool. Calm down and don’t rush. Remember, the temporary inconvenience of a construction zone will pay off with greatly improved roads soon.
- Pay Attention. Avoid cell phone or radio distractions, as well as those of other stopped cars or construction.
- Expect Delays. Leave a bit earlier, if necessary, to arrive at your destination on time. Consider using an alternate route that bypasses known construction zones.
*Full lists assembled by MoDOT, http://www.modot.mo.gov/workzones/safety/.
We should always be focused on the road when driving, but the next time you see bright orange highway construction signs, try to be extra vigilant–it could save someone’s life.