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Defensive Driving Tip 10 – Construction Ahead

Orange cones. Orange barrels. Orange signs. Orange vests. Orange! Orange! Orange!

When most drivers are puttering down the road, they know what the color orange means. Construction Ahead.

Although most drivers know what the color orange means, they choose to ignore it and continue to drive the same way they usually drive.

It should be obvious to any driver that if there is construction ahead, you should slow down and use caution for two important reasons.

The road is being mended or repaved or widened. That means the road surface isn’t as safe as normal and you should approach it with more caution. Texas has more than 305,000 miles of roadway, more than any other state. Consequently, we’re going to have more construction zones too.

There are construction workers walking around trying to do their jobs. They shouldn’t have to worry about cars hitting them. Not only does Texas lead the nation in miles of road way. We also have more construction zone fatalities than any other state, 108 in 2009 alone.
But you’ll navigate construction zones more safely by taking some common sense precautions.

Construction zones are considered dangerous enough that the color orange is reserved for them.

When you see an orange sign warning you in advance of construction some distance ahead, take advantage of the advance warning to exit or change lanes if you can.

Obey the flaggers. Drivers don’t know exactly what conditions they’ll be driving through when they enter a construction area, but the flaggers do, and they are trained to keep traffic moving safely through the area. If they’re telling you to stop or proceed slowly, or if they diverting you into some other lane, obey them as you would any other sign.

By definition, a construction zone is an atypical driving condition, and that means you need to go more slowly than the posted speed limit.

If a construction area is marked with a temporary speed limit sign that’s lower than the usual speed limit, then what’s on the temporary sign is the legal speed limit until construction is completed and the sign comes down. Many drivers think that if a construction sign reads “50 mph.”, it’s just in effect if there are workers present. The sign reads 50 mph because that is deemed the safest speed to be traveling down that road because of the work that’s being done to it.

When construction workers are present, a driver should be doubly cautious. The men and women working out there don’t need to be worried about a speeder or someone on their cell phone plowing into them. Consider this: if cars were driving past your desk at work, how would you want them to drive? Well, you should drive just as slowly and cautiously through someone else’s workplace.

And if you’re one of those people more motivated by money than common sense, remember that fines for speeding in a construction zone are substantial, and they get doubled if workers are present.

Construction zones are more hazardous than normal driving conditions, so you need to pay closer attention than you normally would. This is not the time to take a phone call or send a text message. That sandwich you bought can wait too.

Keep an eye open for workers, other drivers, and objects by the roadway. Be alert for detours, lane changes, sudden stops, and construction machinery crossing your path. And most importantly, be aware that many other drivers are probably more clueless about construction zones than you are, so be on the look out for them to do something stupid.

It’s understandable for a driver to get frustrated driving through road construction. Many of use are running at the last minute, and anything that delays us is a source of frustration. But getting frustrated only makes a dangerous situation more dangerous, causing people to selfishly cut in front of others or to do stupid things they’d never do if they weren’t upset.

To keep yourself safer, mind your manners and let others know what you’re planning to do. Use your turn signals, and change lanes properly. I If traffic has to merge, pause to let someone in, just like you’d want somone else to do to you.

And if you see someone with a bad case of road rage, keep your distance and give them plenty of space. If someone else is going to get caught in their temper tantrum tornado, make sure it’s not you.

Sometimes road construction isn’t a surprise. If you know there’s construction along your usual route, choose an alternate route if you can. If you can’t, then leave earlier and allow yourself extra time to counter the delay.