Every year in April, road workers across the country honor National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW). This year NWZAW falls on April 8-12, and the theme is “Drive Like You Work Here.” Federal, state, and independent agencies will be hosting events and promoting awareness of all week long, but you can honor National Work Zone Awareness week all year long by being a safe and responsible driver.
In recognition of National Work Zone Awareness Week, we’ve rounded up four safety tips for driving in work zones and being aware of what’s going on around you. After all, the safety of the workers inside the work zone depends on you.
1. Be cautious and alert as you enter the work zone.
Work zones are required by law to display signage warning drivers about the upcoming work zone. This is because drivers need time to detect, recognize, decide, and react before entering a work zone. The time needed to do those things is called perception response time (PRT). The average length of distance before work zones that signage must be displayed is 816 ft, but individual distances depend on the speed limit of the road that the work zone is on. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) breaks down those distances, here.
That being said, warning signs ahead of the work zone should give you plenty of time to slow down, focus, and be alert before entering the work zone.
2. Be aware of other drivers.
Just because you are entering a work zone with caution, does not mean that the other drivers around you are doing the same, unfortunately. Here’s what you can do to help ensure the safety of those around you.
- Don’t tailgate. As a general rule of thumb, leave seven seconds of braking distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. This will help you avoid rear-ending them, if they stop or slow down suddenly.
- Give others room to merge safely. Traffic in work zones often merges down to one lane. Give yourself plenty of time to merge and don’t cut off other drivers from merging. The work zone is going to slow you down anyway and cutting someone off from your lane won’t get you to your destination any faster.
- Look out for distracted drivers. Again, just because you’re following the rules and being responsible, does not mean that everyone is. Always be alert for other drivers who are not being respectful of the work zone, and be aware of what they’re doing to avoid a potential accident.
3. Eliminate any distractions.
We love listening to a good playlist or podcast as much as the next guy, but that can be very distracting in work zones. A study conducted at Newfoundland’s Memorial University discovered that driver reaction time can slow up to 20% when listening to loud music. In a work zone, a driver response delayed by 20% can be the difference between life and death.
Similarly, do not talk on the phone, and absolutely do not text while in a work zone. Whatever you have to say can wait until you are out of the work zone, and ideally, not driving. If you have children in the car with you, make sure that they know it’s important to be quiet as you are trying to navigate through the work zone.
4. Be respectful of the workers in the work zone.
Driving through a work zone can be stressful and frustrating. Whether you are annoyed that your drive has been delayed by slower speeds or stopped traffic, or they drivers around you aren’t playing by the rules, keep your cool and do not take your frustrations out on the workers.
If there is a human flagger directing traffic, be calm and listen to their directions. If the work zone traffic control is being handled via an automated flagger assistance device (AFAD), pay attention to it’s signals. In either case, proceed into the work zone with caution. Do not speed through the work zone in an effort to express your annoyance or get to your destination faster. Acting this way will not do anyone any good, and could potentially injure or even kill a road worker. Not to mention, speeding in a work zone has big consequences regardless of if you cause an accident or not, like a hefty fine or even jail time.
At IntelliStrobe, the safety of road workers is our number one priority. This is why we have dedicated ourselves to manufacturing industry leading AFADs to keep flaggers and those inside the work zone as safe as possible.
Contact IntelliStrobe to learn more about how you can revolutionize work zone safety.