With the increase in the volume of traffic, vehicle miles traveled, and deteriorating infrastructure, road construction is a year-round occurrence. According to the Federal Highway Administration there were 514 fatalities in work zone crashes in 2010*.
There are three hazardous areas of each work zone to be aware of:
Before the work zone.
You will start seeing work zone warning signs a mile or two before the actual zone starts. This is where you may want to check your mirrors as cars behind you may speed up to get in front of you because they do not want to follow you through the work zone. Be aware of the vehicle that waits until the last minute to merge from a lane that is closing. Before merging, remember to use the “lean and look” method.
In the work zone.
Most work zones are two-lane roads, and maintaining a safe following distance is critical. Traffic may slow suddenly, and if you cannot stop in time a rear-end crash is inevitable. Because it is a two-lane road with concrete barriers on the right side and oncoming traffic on the left, there is no place to go if traffic stops in front of you. You must be able to stop. Work zones require a driver’s full attention. Talking on a cell phone or reaching for something in the cab are not acceptable techniques. Another reason to keep your attention on the road is that lanes may narrow or shift. The lanes in construction zones are constantly changing.
Exiting the work zone.
When exiting the work zone, signal well in advance and move to the far right lane as soon as possible to let traffic pass. Again use the “lean and look” method before making the lane change. If traffic has been following a truck for miles, they want to get moving again and will try to pass quickly.
The root causes of work zone crashes are:
- Improper following distance
- Distraction or inattention
- Failure to use the “lean and look” method to eliminate the blind spot when making a lane change
Tips to help prevent work zone crashes:
- Always maintain a proper following distance. At 50 to 55 mph use the six second rule. Be prepared for traffic to stop suddenly.
- Avoid all distractions. Keep focus on the road ahead. Talking on a cell phone or reaching for something in the cab are unacceptable.
- When making a lane change before or exiting the work zone, use the “lean and look” method to eliminate any blind spots around the front of the truck.
Great West Casualty Company blog 7/16/2016