Driving safely through work zones: Protect yourself and construction workers

Roadway construction zones are dangerous, and not just for the people who work in them. In fact, drivers are the most frequent fatality in work zone crashes. In Wisconsin alone, there is an average of 2,000 work zone crashes every year and penalties for careless driving through work zones are steep.

Drivers must stay attentive to safely navigate the barrels, signs, and lane changes that are common in work zones. Being safe in a work zone means paying attention to the three S's: speed, stress, and space. 

Speed

Slow down, be alert, and pay attention to the signs. Diamond shaped orange warning signs are typically posted in advance of road construction projects. Similarly, some work zones—like line painting, road patching, and mowing—are mobile, moving down the road as work is completed. Just because you can't see workers immediately after the warning signs does not mean they aren't out there. Proceed through construction zones with caution. 

Follow posted speed limits. Until you see road signs indicating it's safe to do so, don't ramp back up to normal speed. 

See a flagger? Obey their directions. In a construction zone, a flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign, so you can be cited for disobeying his or her directions. 

Stress

Expect delays. Plan ahead and give yourself extra time to get where you're going. 

Be patient. The work zone that you are passing through won't go on forever. Observe the signs until you see one that says you've left the work zone. 

Space

Don't follow too close. The most common crash in a work zone is a rear-end collision. Remember to give yourself at least seven seconds of braking distance between you and the car in front of you. As a good rule of thumb, you should be able to see the bottom of the tires of the vehicle in front of you. 

Use the "take 10" technique to change lanes. Put on your turn signal at least three seconds before starting a lane change and use the last seven seconds to complete the lane change, checking your mirrors throughout. 

Use defensive driving techniques to save lives. Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the traffic barriers, construction equipment, and construction workers. Just like you, the workers want to return home safely after their day's work. 

Read more: That text? It can wait. Take the pledge to stop distracted driving

Everyone needs to take responsibility for work zone safety. Your work crews and highway departments are working hard to create safe conditions. Do your part and stay alert.