Dr. Traffic

Plan on running into lots of construction projects on the road this summer

More than 4,600 crashes were reported in road work zones North Carolina in 2015. In this picture, traffic heads south on I-77 as construction continued at exit 23 on the controversial I-77 toll lanes project.
More than 4,600 crashes were reported in road work zones North Carolina in 2015. In this picture, traffic heads south on I-77 as construction continued at exit 23 on the controversial I-77 toll lanes project. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Maybe you’ll soon travel to a graduation or wedding or for a getaway weekend. This is what makes summer, and the days leading up to it, a time for celebrations.

With all of that excitement just ahead it would be easy to overlook one important thing as you plan your trip: conditions on the road.

Road construction picks up in warmer weather. There are more than 600 projects in progress across the state, according to N.C. Department of Transportation.

Lots of crashes happen in road construction and work zones each year, statistics show. These areas might be highways or local roads. Crews might be building or mowing, patching potholes or doing utility work.

More than 4,600 crashes were reported in these areas in North Carolina in 2015, according to N.C. DOT. Nineteen people died, including three construction workers, and 2,475 people were injured.

But four out of five times the casualties were among the motorists, according to N.C. DOT.

This year 10 people have been killed so far, including two workers, and nearly 1,000 people have been injured.

These are not the summer memories we want to carry with us. Here’s what we can do as drivers to help ensure that we there and back safely.

Protecting yourself and your family starts before you see the bright orange signs that tell you you’re entering a work zone. Allow extra time for the trip.

When you do see those signs, take heed. Slow down. Stay focused on the road. No tailgating.

Most of all, relax and be patient.

More than half of all work zone crashes are the result of speeding and driver inattention, N.C. DOT reports. Most of these crashes – 71 percent – happen on clear days and 80 percent are on dry road conditions.

“We had a crash earlier this year in a work zone in Raleigh where a driver glanced at his watch, looked back up and the car in front had slowed down, and it was too late to prevent the crash,” said Steve Abbott, a spokesman for N.C. DOT.

Rear-end crashes accounted for nearly 45 percent of the collisions in work zones in 2015, Abbott said. Lane changes accounted for 17 percent.

Fifteen percent involved front impact, often at an intersection in a work zone. Sideswipes and other same-direction collisions accounted for more than 14 percent, Abbott said. And there are other things, like animals and pedestrians, to round out the list.

All this means much of the control is in our hands. Besides, you don’t want an additional $250 fine haunting you for speeding in a work zone. That’s in addition to the usual fines and court costs.

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