With roadway construction season kicking off again this spring, Kentucky highway work zones are high-risk areas, not only for road crew members, but for vehicle drivers and their passengers. Kentucky highway officials and law enforcement are hoping to avoid a repeat of the sudden 33 percent jump in accidents that killed 12 motorists in work zones last year. Curiously enough, of those 12 lost lives, 11 were motorists and only one was a road crew worker. That jump in work zone accidents was from 675 in 2016 to 1,007 last year. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) statistics generally mirror Kentucky’s work zone fatality percentages. During a normal five-day workweek, on average, one worker and seven motorists are killed in work zones across the U.S.
Primary Causes of Accidents in Roadway Work ZonesTraffic patterns in a highway work zone are noticeably – sometimes drastically – altered. There may be lane shifts, reduction in the number of lanes, lane splits, and other changes to the flow of traffic which can take unwary drivers by surprise – and sometimes lead to serious accidents. Drivers must take extra precautions while driving through Kentucky road work zones so they can get through the area safely. Following other drivers too closely is dangerous and illegal at any time. But “tailgating” in a road construction zone can be especially dangerous. When a driver follows too closely behind the vehicle ahead of them, a rear-end collision is almost inevitable if the driver ahead is forced to stop quickly. Distracted driving is a significant contributor to work zone crashes. In fact, 44 percent of last year’s work zone crashes listed distracted driving as a factor, while speed accounted for 24 percent. To help you avoid a work zone crash, here are some useful tips to get you safely through dangerous roadway construction zones:
- Stay alert, pay attention and expect the unexpected: By observing lower speed limits, watching for sudden traffic lane changes, and being alert for people and construction vehicles near the highway, you can get through a work zone as quickly as possible and without incident.
- Slow down to the posted construction zone speed: Fines for exceeding a work zone speed limit can be double the amount of what you would normally pay. You should also maintain a safe following distance.
- Respect flaggers: Be prepared to immediately obey the flagger’s directions.
- Drive defensively and keep your distance from other vehicles: The most common type of crash in a highway work zone is the rear-ender. Many of them occur during lane changes. Try to keep seven seconds of braking distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Many times, due to normal traffic congestion, that’s not possible, so you need to be prepared to brake in the blink of an eye.