Preventing Work Zone Crashes

Docked semi trucks

With the increase in the volume of traffic, number of vehicle miles traveled, and deteriorating infrastructure, road construction is a year-round occurrence. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), there were 514 fatalities in work zone crashes in 2010*.

There are three hazardous areas in each work zone to be aware of:

Leading in to the work zone. 

You will start seeing work zone warning signs a mile or two before the actual zone begins. This is where you may want to check your mirrors. Vehicles behind you may speed up to get in front of you to avoid following you through the work zone. Be aware of the vehicle that waits until the last minute to merge from a lane that is closing. Before merging, remember to use the "lean and look" method.

In the work zone. 

Most work zones are two-lane roads, and maintaining a safe following distance is critical. Traffic may slow suddenly, and if you cannot stop in time a rear-end crash is inevitable. Because it is a two-lane road with concrete barriers on the right side and oncoming traffic on the left, there is no place to go if traffic stops in front of you. You must be able to stop. Work zones require a driver's full attention. Talking on a cell phone or reaching for something in the cab are not acceptable behaviors. Another reason to keep your attention on the road is so that you are aware when lanes may narrow or shift. The lanes in construction zones are constantly changing.

Exiting the work zone. 

When exiting the work zone, signal well in advance and move to the far right lane as soon as possible to let traffic pass. Again use the "lean and look" method before making the lane change. If traffic has been following a truck for miles and a line of vehicles has formed, drivers want to get moving again and will pass quickly.

The root causes of work zone crashes are:

  • Improper following distance
  • Distraction or inattention
  • Failure to use the "lean and look" method to eliminate the blind spot when making a lane change

Tips to help prevent work zone crashes:

  • Always maintain a proper following distance. At 50 to 55 mph use the six-second rule. Be prepared for traffic to stop suddenly.
  • Avoid all distractions. Keep focus on the road ahead. Avoid talking on a cell phone or reaching for something in the cab.
  • When making a lane change leading in to or exiting the work zone, use the "lean and look" method to eliminate any blind spots around the front of the truck.

For more tips on preventing work zone crashes, contact Great West Casualty Company. Also, for questions on truck insurance or to find an agent, click below. 

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*Source: FHWA, U.S. Department of Transportation work zone fatality data by state, based on information from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System.