Due to the combination of dangerous machinery and traffic, roadside construction sites pose many risks to both workers and motorists. The Office of Highway Safety Planning reported that in Michigan, in 2019, 5,808 work zone crashes occurred, leading to 17 fatalities. To prevent this type of accident and know how to keep yourself and road construction workers safe in work zones, you should heed a few tips.
First, let’s look at how many work zone accidents happen.
Causes of Road Construction Site Accidents
Accidents at roadside construction sites can be caused by negligence on the part of the driver or poorly managed sites. Knowing the most common causes of accidents in these environments helps to minimize the risk of injury. These include:
- Missing, broken, or misplaced dividers, guardrails, or barriers
- Inadequate warning signage
- Poor traffic management
- Malfunction or improper handling of equipment and machinery
- Bad road surface conditions
- Poorly lit sites
- Failure to merge or change lanes promptly
- Driving over the indicated speed limit
- Drivers being distracted or under the influence
- Drivers not obeying signage or instructions
How to Drive Past a Work Zone Safely
When driving past a construction site, you must take certain precautions to avoid an accident and ensure the safety of you and those around you.
Stick to the Speed Limit
Construction sites are clearly marked so that motorists have obvious directions for how to drive safely around the site. This includes signs indicating the speed limit. In Michigan, the legal speed limit for driving on an active freeway work zone is 45 mph unless there is a concrete barrier separating the job site and traffic flow. In reality, it is often impossible to drive at 45 mph because traffic past work zones is usually stop-and-go.
Look out for signage that indicates you are leaving the work zone and can resume normal speed; it’s easy to think you have passed the site and speed up too soon.
Because traffic moves slowly past construction sites, many drivers end up driving too close to the vehicle in front. This can lead to cars being rear-ended, especially because frequent stopping and starting is common in these circumstances. To keep yourself and other drivers safe, always maintain a two-car stopping distance between you and the vehicle ahead.
Always Pay Attention to Signage and Directions
Driving through a job site requires a high level of concentration due to the many potential hazards. Remain aware of signs, caution signals, and traffic directions because they inform you of where to go and what road conditions to expect. If you drive by a construction site regularly, it’s easy to get complacent about your driving. But remember, these sites change every day, so you must always be cautious.
Use Headlights When Necessary
Although you are not legally required to use your headlights in Michigan when passing a work zone, if visibility is poor due to weather conditions, it’s recommended. However, make sure to dim your high beams when you are within 500 feet of other vehicles.
Concentrate on Your Surroundings
In addition to being aware of your fellow drivers, you must concentrate on all your surroundings when passing a roadside work zone, including where the construction workers are and the direction machinery is moving. Although workers try their best to work safely, you cannot assume mistakes do not happen.
Understand Construction Site Layouts
Understanding the layout of roadside job sites helps you know what to expect when driving by one. Most sites are divided into the following areas:
- The Advanced Warning Area, where warnings of the site and instructions appear.
- The Transition Area is found immediately before the work zone. This is where you should reduce your speed and potentially merge lanes.
- Next is the Buffer Area that allows motorists to correct mistakes.
- The Work Area is where the construction work happens; workers and moving equipment may be present.
- The Termination Area is the place where driving begins to resume normally.
What to Do if an Accident Occurs
Unfortunately, even with the best safety precautions in place, accidents can happen, often leaving the victims with large bills to pay, in addition to trying to recover from their physical and emotional trauma. While you may drive extremely safely, other motorists or the construction workers themselves may lack your same care. If you have suffered injuries or distress due to a roadside construction site accident, you may be entitled to compensation.
The best way to navigate the aftermath of an on-site accident is by hiring experienced Detroit car accident lawyers, like those at Fieger Law. At Fieger Law we have won hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of our clients and, as a top personal injury firm in the U.S., we’re passionate about representing the rights of our clients. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you.