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How to drive safely through road works and construction zones

Brendon Carpenter
By
February 19, 2018

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Road workers and flaggers are striving to improve South African road conditions. It’s our job as motorists to be alert, aware and responsive to keep our workers safe while they’re hard at work.

It’s been 45 minutes, and you’re late for a meeting - time to skip the line and get moving. Road works are such a pain. . .

This mentality ends in thousands of deaths each year.

What we as motorists often take for granted,  is that construction workers and flaggers are hard at work to provide us with safe, well maintained roads and better infrastructure. Construction zones and road works are notoriously dangerous for both workers and motorists alike. According to Arrive Alive, thousands of people die each year as a result of accidents which happen passing through road maintenance or construction zones.

There’s been a significant increase in road works around the country, as the South African government pushes to improve our infrastructure. This means that motorists need to be especially careful, to avoid the number of injuries and fatalities creeping even higher.

Arrive Alive identified the following main causes of injuries and deaths at construction zones

  • Impatient drivers who are either speeding or trying to force their way into converging lanes at the very last minute. This is the number one cause of injuries (or death) to road workers.
  • Drivers that are distracted by texting, cell phone calls or passengers, who don’t see that lanes are converging or don’t merge safely.
  • Drivers who don’t obey the signs or flaggers indicating that they need to slow down or stop.
  • Bad lighting or visibility causing drivers to miss signs warning of road works ahead.

As a rule of thumb, motorists should always expect the unexpected. Driving through roadworks, you could encounter a range of unexpected conditions from new traffic patterns to narrow lanes, workers in the road, lane closures, detours, slow moving equipment and concrete barriers.

It’s important to stay alert and limit distractions while passing through road works, we know it’s hard - but WhatsApp can wait! Arrive Alive suggest that motorists take some additional precautions to drive safely through a construction zone:

    • Leave early. If you know that you’ll encounter a construction zone enroute, either plan to take a different road or, if the road works can’t be avoided, leave home with enough time to cater for delays.
    • Slow down! Exercise caution when approaching roadworks or a construction zone.
    • Pay attention to the yellow caution signs. They’re there for your safety, so take heed of any warning signs you see when entering a construction zone. Arrive Alive writes, “observe these posted signs until you see the one that says you’ve left the work zone.”
    • Turn on your lights. If you’re driving in poor light conditions (or if there’s mist or rain) you need to make your car is as visible as possible.
  • Avoid abrupt driving manoeuvres. Keep your pace slow and steady, and try to avoid having to slam on breaks.
    • Maintain a safe following distance. Rear-end fender benders are one of the most common accidents around road works. Arrive Alive warns, “always be aware that vehicles ahead of you may stop unexpectedly.”
    • Follow the temporary road sign instructions. They’re not there to look pretty! “Drivers should slow to the posted speed and move to the proper lane as instructed” writes Arrive Alive, “traffic and road conditions may dictate an even slower speed.”
    • Keep up with the traffic flow. Gawking and “rubbernecking” causes delays and accidents. Arrive Alive advises, “motorists can help maintain traffic flow and posted speeds by merging smoothly.”
    • Obey road crew flaggers! “The flagger knows what is best for moving traffic safely in the work zone,” Arrive Alive warns. “A flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign, so you can be cited for disobeying his or her direction.”
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to join the correct lane. Indicate with enough time to safely enter the correct lane. Arrive Alive writes, “narrow lanes and restricted shoulders make construction zones a common place for lane-change accidents.” Temporary lanes and shoulders aren’t as stable as regular traffic lanes, and often cause confusion and congestion.
  • Stay alert for aggressive drivers. It’s much easier to give way to an aggressive motorist than to try and hold your place in the que, only to cause an accident. “If another motorist is aggressively jockeying for position, drivers should let them move on,” warns Arrive Alive. “Challenging another driver encourages road rage and endangers the safety of other motorists and workers in the area.”
  • Watch out for construction equipment and workers. Workers and equipment are inevitable, unpredictable obstacles at a construction site. Be alert, and keep your eyes and ears peeled for construction vehicles, equipment or workers who need to pass by.
  • Watch out for debris. Construction equipment like cones, barriers or signs could be very close to (or even in) the roadway. Arrive Alive writes, “debris from work projects, especially dust, dirt, and gravel, may cause added disruption.”
  • Be patient, cautious, and courteous. Despite the delays, you need to remain calm and treat workers and other motorists respectfully. You’re all in the same boat. “Remember, the work zone crew members are working to improve the road and make your future drive better,” writes Arrive Alive.

Stay safe on the road by keeping your car well mainatained and running smoothly. Download our guide and keep your car running smoothly for longer.

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