Traffic accident risks, rates rise in roadway improvement zones
With an increased number of roadway improvement zones popping up throughout Carbon County, construction is presenting problems for drivers who are unaware of the laws surrounding work zone safety.
It is important for drivers not to forget the safety of construction workers along with pedestrians, bicyclists and other drivers while they are traveling through unfamiliar and often changing road conditions.
Many Carbon County residents may believe that most injuries resulting from highway improvement zone accidents are incurred by construction workers. But four out of five people who are killed in roadway improvement zone accidents are motor vehicle drivers and passengers, not construction workers.
Work zone accidents injure more than 40,000 and kill more than 900 people a year throughout the nation.
Yearly fatalities nationwide have increased by 50 percent over the past five years. In 2001 there were a total of 830 work zone accidents in Utah. Over 870 people obtained injuries in these accidents while five people died.
Highway improvement zones are established so that drivers can travel the safest and most efficient routes possible through construction areas.
The zones provide the least amount of delay and protect workers who are completing the construction projects.
Speeding in work zones is a dangerous problem faced nationwide since there is an increased chance of accidents. Utah law specifies that drivers that do not conform to work zone speed limits will be fined at least double the uniform recommended fine schedule for speeding in work zones with workers present.
To assist and remind drivers of reduced speed limits flaggers are frequently used at key points throughout work zones.
By law, any instruction given by flaggers must be followed. Utah law states, "a person may not willfully fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of any flagger at a highway construction or maintenance site to direct, control or regulate traffic."
All traffic control workers and flaggers must be certified to work on construction projects in the state of Utah.
Courses as well as written exams have been developed by the Utah Department of Transportation and need to be taken and passed before a worker can be certified to work in construction zones.
Work zone standards must also be met to provide a safe work environment for construction workers. Utah has adopted the Federal Highway Administration's Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as a standard for traffic control throughout work zones.
The Utah Department of Transportation has also developed more stringent traffic control standards in an effort to improve construction zone safety and decrease the number of accidents that occur in work zones throughout Utah.
UDOT recommends following these tips for driving safely through work zones:
Stay alert and minimize distractions:
Ã¯Â¿Â½ Dedicate your full attention to the roadway.
Ã¯Â¿Â½ Avoid distractions such as changing the radio station, eating and using a cell phone.
Ã¯Â¿Â½ Follow other vehicles at a safe distance.
Obey the posted speed limit:
Ã¯Â¿Â½ Fines are doubled in work zones.
Ã¯Â¿Â½ Workers may be present just a few feet away.
Ã¯Â¿Â½ Be prepared to slow down further.
Follow all flagger instructions and expect the unexpected:
Ã¯Â¿Â½ Workers, work vehicles, or equipment may enter the lane without warning.
Ã¯Â¿Â½ Other vehicles may slow or change lanes unexpectedly.
Pay attention to the road:
Ã¯Â¿Â½ Watch for brake lights ahead.
Ã¯Â¿Â½ Listen to the warning signs.
Merge and change lanes safely.