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10 tips for driving safely in road construction zones

A Schneider truck driver proceeds cautiously through a road construction zone.

Summer road construction season is here, and truck drivers and motorists alike need to be prepared. Whether you’ve been driving for decades or got your driver’s license last week, the tips below are important reminders to make sure you and road construction workers get home safely.

1. Expect the unexpected in road construction zones.

Normal speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed and people and vehicles may be working on or near the road.

2. Slow down, be alert and pay attention to the signs.

Diamond-shaped orange warning signs are generally posted in advance of road construction projects.

3. Comply with the directions given by the flagger.

Stay alert and be prepared to obey the flagger’s 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.

4. Be patient in road construction zones.

Construction zones aren’t there to personally inconvenience you. They’re necessary to improve the roads for everyone. Each state has numerous construction sites in progress.

5. Use the “Take 10” technique to change lanes.

Flashing arrow panels or “lane closed ahead” signs mean you need to merge as soon as safely possible. Don’t zoom right up to the lane closure and then try to barge in. If everyone cooperates, traffic moves more efficiently. The “Take 10” technique involves putting on your turn signal at least three seconds before starting a lane change and using at least seven seconds to complete the lane change, looking at your mirrors throughout.

6. Slow down — don’t drive too fast for conditions.

A truck traveling at 60 mph travels 88 feet per second. If you’re going 60 and you pass a sign that says “Road Work 1,500 feet,” you’ll be in that work zone in 17 seconds.

7. Drive defensively — don’t follow too close.

The most common crash in a highway work zone is the rear-end collision. Remember to leave seven seconds of braking distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Most rear-end accidents occur because of following too close and traveling too fast for conditions.

8. Keep using defensive driving techniques to save lives.

Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, construction equipment and construction workers. Just like you, highway workers want to return home safely after each day’s work.

9. Obey the posted signs until you see the ones that say you’ve left the work zone.

Some work zones — like line painting, road patching and mowing — are mobile, moving down the road as the work is finished. Just because you don’t see the workers immediately after you see the warning sign doesn’t mean they’re not out there.

10. Expect delays; plan for them and leave early to reach your destination on time

Highway agencies use many different ways to inform motorists about the location and duration of major work zones. Often, the agencies will suggest a detour to help you avoid the work zone entirely. Plan ahead, stay alert and stay safe so you get home safely.

For information on national traffic and road closures, check out the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

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About the author
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Herb has been with Schneider since July 1992. He started as a driver and became a training engineer, earning his One Million Mile award in 2000. He trained at three Schneider locations: Charlotte, Atlanta and Green Bay, and then worked as a Customer Service Engineer in Dedicated, starting up new accounts. He is currently Load Engineer Manager for Van Truckload and Flatbed, a member of the Curriculum Development team for driver training and the caretaker of Vinny, Schneider’s vintage 1949 tractor.

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