Road work and construction zones are necessary for maintaining and improving the quality of local infrastructure. However, construction sites often prove to be dangerous for not only road workers, but also motorists. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reported 857 work zone fatalities in 2020, up from 845 in 2019. The vast majority of these deaths were people in cars.

Utah has seen 5 work zone fatalities this year as of September 2022 and 54 over the last five years. Familiarize yourself with these critical driving tips to stay safe and protect others when traveling through construction sites.

  • Plan Journeys Ahead of Time

Motorists are typically warned about construction zones around a quarter of a mile from the site. While this gives you enough time to react and slow down, it may not provide sufficient warning to change routes or use an alternative road. The stress from an unplanned wait due to construction can result in frustration, speeding, or aggressive driving, increasing the risk of an accident.

Most online navigation apps and GPS systems provide live updates on road work and accidents. Your local radio station’s traffic report will likely also mention construction on your route. For checking before you get in the car, the Department of Transport (DOT) lists active work zone locations, helping you plan your route around construction zones. Use these tools and resources to avoid construction zones and potential accidents before you get on the road.

  • Reduce Speed

Speed is one of the top four contributing factors to crashes on Utah roads. If motorists fail to reduce their speed sufficiently or merge lanes on time when entering a work zone, they may cause a rear-end collision. Speed was a factor in 37% of work zone fatality crashes in 2020, according to the FHWA.

Construction work often results in lane closures, forcing multiple rows of traffic to merge. There may also be obstructions on the road like traffic cones or bollards that confuse drivers. These roadway adjustments are inherently dangerous, particularly on highways or congested routes. However, dangers are magnified when drivers fail to reduce their speed.

If you drive too fast in a construction zone, you may fail to break on time and rear-end another car. When speeding, you might also need to break abruptly, causing cars behind you to rear-end your vehicle or hit a construction worker. When entering a construction zone, pay close attention to the speed signs and slow down sufficiently.

  • Maintain a Safe Distance from Other Cars

In 2020, rear-end accidents accounted for 20% of all fatal work zone crashes. Keeping a safe distance between you and the car ahead of you can reduce the risk of a collision if the driver in front brakes suddenly. Generally, keep a distance of at least two car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Avoid tailgating or following too closely behind another car when driving in a construction zone. Leaving a safe distance is particularly important in a work zone where machinery, pedestrians, and other vehicles can enter your lane or slow suddenly and without warning.

Controlling the distance around your vehicle also reduces the risk of an accident at a choke point, where multiple vehicles funnel into a single lane. Frustrated drivers often act erratically at choke points, so allow enough space for other cars to merge or maneuver safely.

  • Pay Attention to Flaggers and Signage

Traffic flow in work zones is controlled primarily by road crew flaggers, who signal drivers when and where to move. Their main priority is maintaining a safe and hazard-free construction zone for motorists, pedestrians, and workers, so paying attention to their instructions is vital.

Traffic signs are also placed around construction sites, displaying speed limits, merging instructions, and hazard warnings. Pay close attention to signs and flaggers until you pass the final post that says you’ve left the construction zone to minimize the risk of a collision.

  • Avoid Distractions

According to the NHTSA, distracted driving was responsible for 3,142 road deaths in 2020. In construction zones, you must be hyper-aware and reactive in case you need to stop suddenly, change lanes, or maneuver around an obstacle. Minimize distractions while driving in a work zone by taking the following actions:

  • Avoid using your cell phone
  • Mount a GPS on the dashboard to avoid taking your eyes off the road
  • Don’t eat while driving
  • Avoid changing the music or radio station while you’re in a construction zone to keep your hands on the wheel

Remain Protected Even After an Accident with Great West Injury Law

Despite your best efforts to drive safely in construction zones, you may be unable to prevent an accident caused by another driver. If you suffer injuries in a motor vehicle crash that wasn’t your fault, contact the experienced road construction crash lawyers at Great West Injury Law.

Our experienced attorneys investigate accidents, collect evidence, and build a solid case to help you earn compensation following an accident. We successfully help our clients secure damages for current and future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering following an accident.

Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.