Spring weather means warmer weather and with that comes the start of road work season. In the coming weeks, you can expect to see many more work zones popping up across the state. While roadway workers face obvious risks to their safety, nearly 85 percent of those killed in work zone crashes are drivers or their passengers, not the roadway workers. AAA urges motorists to use caution and drive safely when approaching and driving through work zones.
The number of lives lost in work zone-related traffic crashes nationally has decreased by more than 51 percent from 1,186 in 2002 to 576 in 2010, the most recent year for which national data are available.
“It’s clear more must be done to keep motorists and highway workers safe in work zones,” said Marilyn Buskohl, spokeswoman for AAA South Dakota. “A motorist’s crash risk in a work zone can be significantly reduced through the simple acts of slowing down, observing posted advisories, preparing for unusual driving conditions and practicing patience.”
Work zone safety tips for motorists
Plan Ahead – Motorists are encouraged to check for planned work zone delays and traffic advisories and allot extra travel time prior to departing for their trip. Travelers may use AAA’s online TripTik Travel Planner to create maps and get turn-by-turn directions. TripTik Travel Planner identifies longer-term construction areas and delivers advisory messages for such things as areas of historic congestion. Travelers are encouraged to visit state and local department of transportation websites for the latest road travel information and plan alternative routes to their destinations as needed. For on-the-go use, the routing feature in AAA’s free TripTik Mobile app assists motorists to navigate a new route.
Reduce Speed – For the safety of all drivers and construction workers, normal posted speed limits are often reduced in work zones. Most states, including South Dakota, double fines for speeding in work zones when workers are present. Drivers should not underestimate the speed at which they’re traveling before beginning to slow down; it can take longer than a driver may think to reduce a vehicle’s speed enough to safely enter the work zone area. Motorists, while keeping consistent with the flow of traffic, should maintain a safe distance between vehicles ahead, traffic barriers, construction workers and equipment.
Remain Alert – As in any driving situation, minimize interior and exterior distractions. Temporary work zone signs are orange and commonly diamond-shaped. Construction zones may contain unusual vehicles or machinery that can divert a driver’s attention as well as traffic cones, barrels, flashing lights and concrete barriers. Drivers should be prepared to stop, slow down, shift lanes, merge and yield to the movement of construction workers and equipment.