National Work Zone Awareness Week each April brings to light the number of injuries and fatalities that take place in construction work zones – most of which are traffic related. According to the Florida I4 Ultimate Improvement Project More than 40,000 people are injured each year in work zones.
“The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that 99 percent of work zone crashes injure drivers and their passengers rather than roadside workers.” While in 2016 143 workers were killed in road construction zones, which is up from the previous three year average of 130.1. All in all, all roadwork area fatalities are up almost 50 fatalities a year over previous averages. The number one cause? Distracted drivers.
Drivers: What you can do?
As much as work zones can be stressful for commuters in day to day operations, your hurriedness and misjudgments are not worth more than another person’s life. But if you look at all the data, the actual life in jeopardy is your own – as well as your passengers. It’s time to look at how you drive when approaching construction zones a little differently.
1. Slow Down
Most construction zones are clearly marked, with plenty of warnings, traffic control devices, lead time warnings for speed reduction changes, high visibility markers, and in general – on the ground law enforcement. So even if you still can’t make the proper judgment call to reduce your speed for the safety of everyone else involved, think about this – Law enforcement nationwide is putting the hammer down. Here a few examples:
Florida: Traveling 10 mph above the posted work zone speed limit shaves less than three minutes off a 20-mile trip and carries a minimum fine of $200, plus court fees.
Illinois: Illinois State Police utilize a police photo enforcement zone with mandatory $375 fines for first-time offenders. And they might even blast you on Facebook.
Kanawha County: Kanawha County just instated a zero tolerance policy for any speeding through road work zones.
2. Don’t Tailgate (In any situation.. but especially here)
While going the speed limit, statistics show that as a result, it’s easier for drivers to avoid tailgating all together. So follow tip number 1 and your halfway home. But why is tailgating such a big deal specifically in work zones? Because more than half of all of these work zone crashes were rear collisions. A standard passenger vehicle takes 300 feet of dry road to come to a complete stop from 50mph. A tractor-trailer in the same conditions takes 450 feet.
3. Pay Attention
I mentioned earlier that distracted drivers were the number one cause of these accidents. So, why make this one number 3? Because a speeding, tailgating distracted driver is far more dangerous. If you can at least slow down and give some room, you can bring these numbers of fatalities way down. And if you are making these adjustments, maybe you are paying attention after all at this point …eh?
Drivers all following the posted speed limits are allowing each other enough time to make the necessary changes for what is happening in the roadway. Many work zones have constantly changing lanes of travel, speed, and even the number of lanes themselves can change inside of these work areas.
In this, added distractions like phones, eating, drinking, radios, nav units, and so on work towards diverting your attention away from the primary task of driving. This is where fatalities are born.