Road construction work helps maintain important infrastructure. But such construction interrupts normal driving patterns and creates a serious risk of collisions. Recently, Federal Highway Administration data demonstrated some of the dangers created when drivers fail to exercise reasonable care in work zones. In the past five years, 4,400 people have died in collisions in work zones. A driver or passenger in a vehicle was the victim killed in 85 percent of fatal work zone crashes and drivers were the most likely victims. An additional 200,000 people sustained injuries in construction zone car accidents. The majority of people killed and injured in these accidents were working age adults.
Drivers need to be aware of the added risks of work zone accidents. In particular, there is a significant danger of rear-end collisions. These accidents, which occur when a driver hits the rear end of a vehicle slowing down or stopping, are the most common kinds of crashes in work areas. They are also often preventable. Most motorists traveling through work zones can safely avoid causing a rear-end car accident if they simply slow down and leave enough space between the car in front of them.
Preventing Rear-End Collisions in Work Zones
Rear-end crashes in work zones are common for many reasons. Work zones often result in drivers following too closely and not maintaining a safe following distance. Drivers are generally recommended to leave a four-second following distance between their car and the car directly in front of them. This distance is measured by assessing when the lead vehicle passes a fixed object on the roadway and making sure at least four seconds follows before you pass the same object.
In work zones, traffic can be backed up and drivers often leave little or no space between their own car and a lead vehicle. Drivers frustrated by slower work-zone speeds or by heavy traffic sometimes become more aggressive and exhibit road rage. The tightly-packed area may leave little room for motorists to escape an accident, especially when parts of the road are closed due to construction.
Drivers should remember to maintain a safe distance, especially in work zones and when there's heavy traffic. A car traveling 50 MPH will take 300 feet to stop on a dry road and 400 feet to stop on a wet road. If an 80,000 pound tractor trailer is traveling on the same road, it will take 50 percent more time to stop than the car. Most fatal work-zone accidents happen on roads with speed limits exceeding 50 MPH, so drivers should keep these stopping distances in mind.
Work zone rear-end accidents also happen because of distractions. Drivers might look at the construction, at a map or a GPS device to find alternative routes. A distracted driver doesn't see when a car ahead comes to a stop. As a result, distracted drivers often cause read-end collisions in work-zone areas.