A line of cars passes through an active work zone with a speed limit of 25 mph.

How Risky Driving Impacts Flagger Safety

Cars go by. Your coworkers repair the pavement behind you. You stand on the shoulder of the road, directing traffic through the work zone. One driver could change your entire life.

Road workers have a high-risk job. The Federal Highway Administration states that there were 132 worker fatalities at road construction sites in 2017 alone. Flagging stations are positioned alongside oncoming traffic, so flaggers face an increased risk of injury from passing vehicles.

As a flagger, you work in close proximity to traffic and reckless drivers. How can risky driving impact your work zone?

Learn more about risky driving behaviors and how you can stay safe on the job.


A vehicle flies down the highway as it approaches your work zone. Chances are the driver won’t be able to slow down or stop safely. The faster someone drives, the longer it takes them to come to a stop. Traveling at high speeds gives drivers less time to react.

Speeding is a common cause of vehicular crashes. In 2017, there were 203 fatal crashes caused by speeding drivers. At 20 miles per hour (mph), it takes a driver 115 feet to stop. At 65 mph, drivers need 645 feet to come to a stop.

Other factors, like hills or curves before the work zone, can make it harder for drivers to react in time. When you combine other risks with speeding drivers, you increase the likelihood of a vehicular incident. For flaggers, this could mean serious injury.

Distracted Drivers

A driver gets a text. They look down at their phone. It only takes five seconds to send a reply. As the driver sends the message, their eyes, hands, and mind are no longer on the road ahead. At 55 mph, this driver crosses a distance as long as a football field in the time it takes to send that message.

Distracted driving is a leading cause of road accidents. More than 1,000 people are injured by distracted driving each day in the United States. While there are many risks of texting and driving, there are other ways drivers can be distracted on the road.

Types of distracted driving include:

  • Texting and calling
  • Talking to passengers
  • Eating
  • Using GPS
  • Fiddling with the stereo

When drivers partake in these behaviors, they are no longer focused on the roads or prepared to react to a flagger’s signals. Distracted drivers spell danger for flaggers and other road construction workers.

Drunk & Drowsy Drivers

Drunk driving kills more than 10,000 people each year. Almost 30 people die each day from drunk driving crashes.

As for drowsy drivers, they are also a safety hazard. Accidents caused by sleep-deprived drivers happen most often between midnight and 6 a.m. Sleepy drivers took 795 lives in 2017.

While there is no way to prepare for a drunk or drowsy driver, flaggers can look for signs based on how the driver is operating the car. If you see a driver maneuvering erratically, don’t hesitate to use your escape route and alert the road crew.

Work Zone Safety

How can you stay safe as a flagger? When you’re on the job, you’ll want to make sure you stay alert and that you are visible to oncoming vehicles.

  • Be alert. In a work zone, there are many moving parts, from passing vehicles to work equipment. You should stay aware of your surroundings at all times. Knowing what’s around you will help you stay safe.
  • Stay visible. All flaggers should be highly visible from a distance. The MUTCD requires flaggers to be visible from 1,000 feet away. Flaggers can accomplish this by wearing Performance 2 or 3 regulation apparel. Reflective vests, jackets, and trousers come in bright oranges and yellows so that you can be seen from afar.
  • Know your escape route. Every work zone safety plan should designate escape routes. How can you leave your flagger station in an emergency or intrusion? Make sure you are aware of escape routes and ready to use them if necessary.
  • Invest in AFADs. Automated flagger assistance devices (AFADs) improve flagger safety by taking the human out of harm’s way. AFADs let flaggers direct traffic remotely—meaning flaggers can work apart from traffic. You and your fellow flaggers will control AFADs from a safe distance, so the automated flaggers take on the risk of reckless drivers.

Are you ready to make your work zone safer?

IntelliStrobe’s top-notch red/yellow automated flaggers include a highly visible gate arm and large LED lights. Complete with a safety alarm, our AFADs lessen the day-to-day risks of flaggers.

Contact us to learn how automated flaggers are transforming work zone safety. 

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