Drivers put themselves and others in danger when they don’t slow down or obey signs in work zones. In 2018, there were 35 crashes in construction and maintenance zones in Mississippi. Those accidents resulted in ten fatalities of drivers and passengers. Additionally, 13 highway workers were injured. In order to stay safe and prevent accidents, let’s take a look at what Mississippi drivers need to know about highway work zones.
Common Situations Drivers Encounter in Work Zones
If you’re driving along your normal route and suddenly see orange signs on the side of the road, you know a work zone is coming up. When that area is located on a highway, it’s important to keep in mind the speed you’re traveling and where the other vehicles are around you.
When you enter a work zone, it’s normal for lane patterns and widths to change. Sometimes shoulders or medians on the sides of the road are closed, which means there may be no immediate spots for emergency pull-offs. You’re also likely to encounter large construction vehicles and highway workers standing near traffic. Depending on the degree of construction taking place, you could be guided through a detour in an unfamiliar area. While potentially nerve-wracking, following the signs will get you back on the road you were previously traveling on.
You may encounter inexperienced or distracted drivers. They could be unaware of shifting lanes or construction vehicles entering. There’s also the possibility of an aggressive driver who’s trying to speed dangerously through the work zone.
Even if the drivers around you are not operating their vehicle in a safe manner, it’s important for you to listen to the posted signs and flaggers, pay attention to your surroundings, and be prepared for the vehicles around you to miss something important.
How Highway Work Zones Are Set Up in Mississippi
To navigate a highway work zone safely, you’ll benefit from understanding the general layout. The three types of work zones, according to the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT), include mobile, single lane closure of two-way traffic, and single lane closure on interstate or four-lane divided highway.
Mobile work zones move continuously or intermittently depending on the work being completed. They are used for pothole patching and lane stripes. When approaching a mobile work zone, drivers will see an MDOT vehicle parked on the shoulder indicating a lane closure, a second MDOT vehicle with a flashing error that tells motorists to change lanes, and a third MDOT vehicle performing work.
A single lane closure of two-way traffic is used for projects like resurfacing of the travel lane or road shoulder repair work. Drivers will see a “Road Work Ahead” sign, a sign indicating which lane is closed, and a sign for a flagger up ahead.
Single lane closure on interstate or four-lane divided highway work zones are used for similar reasons as the single lane closure of two-way traffic, but the roads being worked on are larger. Upon entering the work zone, drivers will see signs indicating the lane closure in one mile, reduced speed ahead, lane closure in one-half mile, speed limit, lane closed in 1500 feet, and lane shift ahead.
Tips for Staying Safe in Highway Work Zones
Safety is everyone’s responsibility when it comes to driving through a work zone. In order to help everyone get home safely at the end of the day, there are a number of safety tips you should keep in mind while maneuvering through a highway that’s being worked on.
Make sure you give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Road delays and construction areas are often announced on the radio, in the paper, and online. If you know ahead of time you’re going to run into a slowdown, leave early. This will help prevent frustration, which can lead to drivers making bad decisions.
It’s also important to listen to the road signs, slow down, and watch out for flaggers. Follow all instructions you receive from road signs and flaggers, as they’re helping you get through the work zone safely. Abiding by the posted speed limit ensures you have control over your vehicle to stop when necessary and you’ll avoid striking a worker.
Finally, drivers in highway work zones need to avoid distractions, be alert to changing conditions, and be patient. Even though there’s a general structure to most highway work zones, the layout can change in a moment’s notice. If a driver isn’t paying attention, they could cause an accident. If traffic gets backed up or comes to a stop, remaining calm and patient will ensure you reach the work zone’s end before you know it.
If you’re in an accident in a highway work zone and you believe someone else’s negligence was the cause, you may have grounds to file a personal injury claim. Corban Gunn, Attorney at Law can assist you with your case and help you determine how best to proceed to improve your chances of making a full recovery.