You’ve seen the signs warning of heavy fines and dangers in work zones, but how dangerous are they? Here’s everything you need to know about driving through road construction, from avoiding hefty tickets to staying safe in an accident.
How Dangerous are Work Zones?
In Wisconsin, there are over 2,600 crashes in construction zones each year resulting in over 1,000 injuries and 10 deaths. Construction work accounts for 30% of all workplace fatalities in the U.S, and, on average, a construction worker is 8 times as likely to die on the job as the typical American worker. Nationwide, the number of fatalities in work zones has increased by 1-2% each year for the past decade.
To protect workers and drivers, state and federal agencies have come together to improve worker training, develop better signage and increase traffic enforcement. Like most states, speeding fines in Wisconsin are doubled if you’re ticketed in a construction zone. Accidents and injuries also carry heavier penalties.
Decreasing Your Risk
Construction areas add several hazards to the road. Construction vehicles and workers may enter the roadway unexpectedly, the pavement is uneven, and lanes close and shift unexpectedly. While you may be used to dealing with pedestrians in residential areas, the added speed on highway construction zones makes it harder to avoid the people working near your vehicle.
The biggest step you can take to increase safety is to concentrate on your driving. In this state, you are required to use a hands-free device if you use a phone while driving through road construction areas. However, it’s better if you keep your hands off your phone, food, makeup and anything else while driving. Even a slight delay in your reactions can put you in danger.
In Wisconsin, about 1/3 of crashes in construction zones are caused by tailgating. Keep plenty of space between your car and the vehicle in front of you. They may need to stop suddenly to avoid construction vehicles and animals trapped on the roadway.
Pay attention to signs. Thanks to improvements in the use of signs, barriers and cones, you should have plenty of warning for changes in speed limits and road conditions.
Zipper merging can reduce congestion by up to 40%. Instead of merging into an open lane immediately, wait until you’re near where your lane closes, then move over. If you’re in the open lane, let one car in ahead of you. By alternating which cars go through the open lane, traffic doesn’t back up as much. This saves frustration and reduces the chance of collisions.
Only change lanes where it’s safe. If you see solid white lines, stay in your lane.
If you can, avoid road construction altogether. In most states, the department of transportation has a website and app that can show you current road construction projects. In this state, we have the Wisconsin 511 app. Navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps will redirect you automatically if construction traffic is heavy, but only if you have mobile data turned on.
What if My Car Breaks Down, or I Have an Accident?
For the most part, you can take the same actions in a construction zone as you would in any other area. However, there are a couple of quirks you need to deal with.
In Wisconsin, you are required to move your vehicle to a safe spot if you’re OK and your car is still drivable. Don’t pull into areas marked off for construction. Instead, wait until you can pull over on a shoulder. Once you have your vehicle in a safe place, stay seated and buckled in. This is safer than getting out of your car, and it makes it easier for police and emergency services to find you.
Wisconsin is one of a handful of states with a Highway Safety Patrol. This service offers short tows and minor auto repairs including spare tire changes. The patrol is sponsored by State Farm, but it’s free to everyone. While there are several patrols operating regularly in Milwaukee county, other patrols are set up at high risk locations including construction zones. If a safety patrol vehicle arrives before you can reach your phone, you don’t need to call 911.
Have an Accident? We Can Help.
Merton Auto Body is Lake Country’s premier collision repair shop. We offer the latest techniques in auto body repair, so we can repair everything from antiques to the latest models. Need your car back fast? We have an auto body estimation center that can create a quote in minutes, and our appraiser will work with your insurance to get work approved. We’re a few miles west of Highway 164 in Sussex, just a short distance from Pewaukee, North Lake, Delafield and the rest of Waukesha county.