Work zone safety is important not only to protect those who build and maintain our highways, but also to protect motorists. About 80% of those killed in crashes that occur in work zones are drivers and their passengers. Preventable rear-end collisions are the most common type of work zone crash. Simple things, such as slowing down, obeying signs and flaggers, and preparing for lane restrictions, help keep everyone safe.
Safety Tips: Driving Through Work Zones
Expect the unexpected.
Normal speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be restricted and people may be working on or near the road.
Speeding is one of the major causes of work-zone crashes.
Keep a safe distance.
The most common type of accident in a work zone is a rear-end collision. Maintain two car lengths between you and the car in front of you as well as road crews and their equipment.
The warning signs are there to help you move safely through the work zone. Observe the posted signs.
Obey road crew flaggers.
The flagger knows what is best for moving traffic safely in the work zone. A flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign. You can be cited for disobeying a flagger's directions.
Stay alert and minimize distractions.
Dedicate your full attention to the roadway and avoid changing radio stations or using cell phones while driving in a work zone.
Keep up with traffic flow.
Motorists can help maintain traffic flow and posted speeds by merging as directed by signage. In some work zones, ADOT will post signage that a zipper merge has been implemented.
Check road conditions before you travel.
Schedule enough time to drive safely and check for traffic information by calling 511 or by visiting Arizona Traveler Information.
Be patient and stay calm.
Remember, crews are working to improve the road and your commute.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are long stretches of highway restricted when work is only being done in a small section?
There are many reasons why a given length of roadway is closed, but the main reason is that work is being conducted to maximize productivity even though it may appear to the driver that little or no work is in progress at any given time. Remember, the work zone is usually observed by the driver for a very short period of time. Roadway work is very dynamic with several ongoing work operations synchronized to result in a finished product. This is usually true for both long and short duration work as it is generally more efficient and safer to implement the traffic control for the entire length of the work zone. Some work operations that are not always observed include:
- Survey and layout work
- Preparation work, such as sweeping and cleanup
- Preliminary repair work
- Utility relocations
- Small related work operations done in advance of the main work effort
Why are multiple lanes restricted when work is only being done in one?
In many cases it is not feasible or safe to conduct work operations within the limits of a single lane. Maintaining traffic directly adjacent to a work operation, separated only by a lane stripe is extremely hazardous for both drivers and workers. Longer term projects may use temporary concrete barriers to separate traffic from the work zone. Also, lane closures are analyzed for traffic delay impacts and every effort is made to minimize traffic impacts as much as possible.
I passed a lane-closed sign and didn't see anyone working.
This does happen and is usually due to setting up or taking down work zone signs and devices. Many work zones can be labor intensive to install and remove, depending on the size and complexity. If a driver happens to be traveling through a work zone during these periods the work zone may not be fully operational. Occasionally, a sign may be inadvertently left in place when it is not needed, and we try to respond as soon as possible if this happens.
Why isn't all construction done at night and how is it decided when it is appropriate?
Quite a bit of construction work is done at night in an effort to avoid the higher volume daytime hours and associated traffic delays. This might be the only positive benefit of night work, but a very important benefit nonetheless. Not all construction work is compatible with night work and some construction work cannot physically be completed at night and reopened the following day. If traffic can be maintained at a reasonable level, we would prefer to conduct work during the day for the following reasons:
- Night work is inherently more dangerous due to the reduced visibility and the much higher percentage of impaired drivers.
- Production can suffer to some extent because of the difficulty of working under low light and portable light conditions.
- Night work generally is more expensive due to less production and increased traffic control, lighting and protective measures.