Annually, just under 100,000 work zone accidents occur nationwide, with most of these collisions occurring on major highways and interstates. In the past five years, 4,400 people have died in work zone accidents and roughly 200,000 people have been injured. Although many people believe that construction workers are the most at risk in a work zone, studies show that, in fact, 85% of fatalities and injuries are sustained by the driver or passenger.
Safety Tips While Driving in Metro East, IL Work Zones
Driving in a major metropolitan area such as Metro East and St. Louis will necessarily involve driving through construction zones, closed lanes, and rerouted traffic—so it’s important to be proactive about protecting yourself on the road.
The first step that all drivers can take is to check the MODOT Weekly Update to see all current road closings and work zones. If you can plan an alternate route, you’ll not only avoid a potentially life-threatening situation but you’ll also be able to avoid the frustration of bumper-to-bumper traffic and stressful driving. Another option is to use the cell phone application called Waze, which will reroute around construction and Metro East traffic delays. The app will tell you step by step directions so you do not need to look at the phone.
When you can’t find an alternative route, follow these tips to stay safe:
- Avoid Distractions. Of course, distraction-free driving is important no matter what the conditions are, but focusing fully on your driving is particularly important in a work zone. When you’re approaching a work zone, it’s not the time to change the radio station, unwrap that burger you just picked up, or use your mobile phone. Traffic patterns change quickly, other vehicles around you may need to make split-second decisions to avoid a collision, and tractor-trailers and construction equipment may need extra space to merge or slow down. The last place you want to inadvertently find yourself is between the barrier and a semi-truck when it’s time for a truck driver to merge.
- Know the Area. In general, work zones can be broken down into four distinct areas: the Advance Warning Area, where signs tell drivers what to expect, the Transition Area, where traffic is rerouted into a different pattern, the Activity Area, where the work is actually taking place, and the Termination Area, where traffic resumes its normal pattern. Accidents are common throughout the work zone, with rear end collisions with a slowing or stopped vehicle being the most common type of crash in all four areas. However, each area also presents unique risks. For example, in The Activity Area, head on collisions, sideswipe collisions, and fixed object collisions are also frequent occurrences. Paying attention to where you are in the work zone will help you know what to look out for.
- Know the Signs. Speaking of the four areas of a work zone—it’s a good idea to brush up on the Warning Signs you may see while you’re in the Advance Warning Area. These signs will let you know that a work zone is coming up, that your lane is ending and you’ll need to merge, that a flagger is ahead, that there will be two-way traffic in an area that’s normally one-way, and other traffic pattern warnings and notices. When you’re prepared and know what to expect as you approach the Transition Area, you’re less likely to face a risky situation that could lead to an accident.
- Merge Early, Make Room, Stay Alert. If a work zone warning sign lets you know that your lane is ending, don’t wait until you reach the lane closure to merge. Give yourself plenty of time, and give other drivers plenty of room, as you merge into the new traffic pattern and slow down. While in the work zone, don’t tailgate and don’t stop suddenly unless you absolutely have to. Be prepared to slow down even further once you’re in the work zone, be prepared for other drivers to slow down, change lanes, or stop completely, and understand that worker, equipment, and work vehicles could enter your lane with little warning. Always remember that tractor-trailers require more room to merge, and more room to slow down, than passenger vehicles. Give truck drivers a wide berth!
Work zone safety requires more focus and more forethought than driving under more ideal conditions—but being aware of your surroundings could save your life. If you’ve been in a work zone accident in Metro East, IL and need some advice, call the experienced accident attorneys at Walton Telken for help.
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