Every driver is familiar with the orange cones and barrels that mark upcoming construction zones on roads and highways. No matter how experienced a driver is, or how cautiously they drive, construction zones are hazards that put drivers and workers alike at risk of being seriously injured. Despite the safety measures, like flashing lights and warning signs, no two construction zones are alike, making navigation difficult. Additionally, not all drivers obey the rules. Construction zones become even more dangerous at night, as visibility is reduced.
Construction zone accidents are not always the fault of a driver. Sometimes, it is how the area is setup or a workers negligence that causes the incident. Poorly marked zones can cause a driver to suddenly get confused and side swipe another vehicle, hit a concrete barrier, or collide with a piece of construction equipment. We have all been driving through a construction zone when, all of a sudden, we couldn’t tell which lane was ours. Similarly, the paint that marks those lanes is often removed (partially), moved, and repainted, compounding the difficulty in discerning where to drive.
Slow moving work vehicles that have improper or missing warning lights may not be seen until it is too late for the traffic driver to slow down. Often, dump trucks and similar equipment will back into the road in order to turn around or move the vehicle. Although traffic is expected to stop, it may not always be that easy. Also, high-intensity work lighting may be directed into the eyes of oncoming drivers, leaving them temporarily blinded and only guessing at what is in front of them.
Common Types of Construction Zone Accidents
Wisconsin sees nearly 2,000 construction zone accidents a year. Here are some of the common types of accidents.
Rear End Collisions – Tailgating and distracted driving, along with the failure to recognize slow or stopped traffic, often causes rear end collisions. When traffic is moving along at a normal pace, and then suddenly slows dramatically for a construction zone, it has the potential to throw off some drivers.
Sideswipes – Narrow lanes with erratic lane shifts are conducive to vehicle to vehicle, or vehicle to barrier, sideswipe accidents. Similarly, the roadway may change levels (sometimes denoted by an “uneven roadway” sign) creating an uneven surface. It is possible for a vehicle’s tire to catch this pavement and lose control, striking the vehicle or concrete barrier next to them.
Striking workers – The close proximity of workers to moving vehicles presents a constant hazard. Of all the dangers in a construction zone, this is by far the most deadly. Workers often need to cross the road or walk close to traffic in order to do their job. Construction crews and the WIS DOT use signs that warn of a large fine and potential jail time to remind drivers what’s at stake.
Collisions with equipment – Slow moving work vehicles and construction equipment in or near the path of a vehicle are causes of serious accidents, also. A small sedan colliding with a 30-ton dump drunk filled with dirt and rock never ends well for the passenger vehicle. Similarly, equipment that isn’t technically a vehicle, like backhoes and rollers, may be left too close to the road also.
Collisions with warning equipment – Signs, barrels, lights, and other warning devices may not be seen until it is too late. Many construction signs are heavy, motorized pieces of equipment that can total a car if struck, causing serious injuries. Similarly, misplaced or improperly placed warning equipment may cause a driver to swerve out of the way and strike any of the above examples.
Most road and highway construction zone accidents happen in a split second, but the results can last a life time. Keeping this in mind, construction zones should always be navigated with the most caution and care possible. Keep this list of tips in mind next time you are on the road.
1. Be Alert – Pay attention and expect the unexpected. Be alert and watching for sudden lane shifts, uneven pavement, other driver’s proximity and construction equipment suddenly entering the roadway.
2. Do not tailgate – Drive as if the vehicle in front of you might stop abruptly. Keeping this in mind, you should allow plenty of distance for braking, so that if the car in front of you completely locked up their brakes, you would still have plenty of room to stop safely.
3. Slow down – Obey the posted speed limits approaching, and within, the work zone. Keep in mind that speeding tickets are doubled, if you need incentive. A $400 ticket could cost the average person an entire week’s pay.
4. Avoid distractions – The best rule for paying attention while driving is “both eyes on the road, both hands on the wheel.” If you are not doing this, then you are probably distracted. Do not change the radio station constantly, reply or send ANY texts, nor talk on or answer your cell phone.
If you break down in a Construction Zone
Whether it’s a blown tire or running out of gas, breakdowns are never a good thing. They can be especially challenging in road construction zones. It’s crucially important for motorists to be aware of their surroundings to stay safe. Wisconsin is one of many states that operates highway safety patrols for basic roadside service in some major work zones. This is done in the interest of keeping everyone safe by relocating disabled vehicles, brushing away debris and helping to manage traffic.
If you do break down in a work zone, it’s important to keep cool and follow these guidelines:
– Turn on your hazard lights. It’s important to warn other motorists of your presence.
– If you are OK and your vehicle is drivable, the Wisconsin Steer It, Clear It law requires you to move your vehicle to a safe location, away from traffic. Look for ramps or temporary pull-off zones.
– Stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt fastened. Your vehicle is typically the safest place to await roadside assistance. If you get out of your vehicle, you risk exposing yourself to potential work zone hazards such as unprotected drops, rough walking areas or construction equipment.
– Reserve calling 911 for true emergencies such as crashes, injuries or if your vehicle is inoperable in a lane of traffic. Wisconsin’s highway safety patrols and roadside assistance providers are adequately equipped to help with smaller issues such as running out of gas or having a flat tire.
– Keep contact information for your insurance company or roadside assistance provider with you.
– Know where you are, especially if you do need to call for help. Being aware of mile markers or guide signs will make it much easier for someone to find you.
– Be prepared. It’s a good idea to keep a few items in your car to help in the event of a breakdown, including a visibility vest, a charged mobile phone, a first-aid kit, a warm blanket, extra clothing, water and snacks.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a a construction zone car accident, we are here to help. Contact Jacobson, Schrinsky & Houck today at: 414-223-4444 or online at: www.jsh-law.com/contact-us
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