Everyone knows that highway work zones can be a dangerous place. Hazardous work zone driving conditions are created by uneven pavement, loose gravel, narrowed lanes, concrete barriers, inattentive drivers, vehicles making sudden stops and/or sudden merges, and speeding. Professional drivers frequently encounter work zones and know just how imperative it is to be on the lookout for changing road and traffic conditions and being prepared for the unexpected.
Here are six tips to keep in mind when driving through work zones.
1. Know before you go
Map out your trip before you leave to see if you will be going through any construction zones. Highway agencies will post about various zones and detours to help you avoid the work zones. For more information on national traffic and road closures, check out the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
2. Take it slow
Remember that a trip through a work zone may take longer. Normal speed limits are reduced in construction zones. Be sure to slow down when approaching the zone and be prepared to drive slower than the posted work zone speed limit if needed in order to increase reaction time and allow yourself a good following distance.
3. Maintain one lane
When approaching a construction zone, be prepared to merge if necessary, and merge early. If possible, stay in that lane. Avoid aggressive behaviors such as driving on the shoulder and blocking lanes so others can’t get in.
Additionally, you will want to stay extra alert for flaggers in a construction zone. Be prepared to follow a flagger’s directions. In a construction zone, a flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign.
5. Drive defensively, keeping a proper following distance
It is important to keep a safe distance between your vehicle, traffic barriers, construction equipment, and construction workers, as well as maintaining a good following distance. Always be thinking about possible situations of how a hazard can present itself so you have a plan on what your next move could be. Adding a few more seconds of distance in construction zones is highly recommended because you never know when a hazard is going to present itself.
6. Keep an eye on the road ahead
Looking a minimum of 15 seconds ahead (eye-lead time) allows time to identify and react to hazards, giving you the opportunity to determine the safest course of action. Pay attention to obstacles, debris and construction workers and construction vehicles that may enter the line of traffic. This will help in anticipating problems and reacting in time.