Working on the infrastructure of roads, enlarging existing ones or building new ones has helped with the fluidisation of traffic and speed, hence saving drivers time from waiting in enormously long lines. However, until they are finished, having to drive on working road zones is slower than usual and oftentimes more dangerous. Besides, repairing some roads means that they have to scarp off the asphalt which turns it into a nightmare for the life expectancy of car parts and for drivers as well. This is a worldwide issue, since it’s not only about the safety of the traffic participants and their cars, but also the safety of the workers because of the hazardous working and driving conditions.
Many accidents that happen in these zones end up with the deaths of innocent people. Because of the multiplying number of cars all over the world, there is a pressing need for more roads and highways and for adapting the existing ones which will also increase the number of accidents, injuries or deaths following the construction sites. Statistics by the Federal Highway Administration show that in the US, car crashes in work zones have increased by 45 percent for the past 10 years, 15 percent of which are bikers, workers or pedestrians.
The risks and implications of constructions sites and road work
As mentioned above, road work is a danger not only for the drivers and passengers, but also for the workers, pedestrians and bikers (either motorised or non-motorised ones). The main reason for these issues is the lack of attention or the impatience of the drivers that do not respect the speed limits around those areas or the other temporary regulations. It is somehow understandable that people want the traffic to go smoothly because being stuck in it for a longer period of time can result in stress due to congestion, a too hot or too cold environment and loss of money because they cannot stop and start their engines over and over again and besides the damaged roads destroy their cars.
These areas usually have warning signs, cones and even traffic lights or devices that show the drivers when to slow down. However, some of them ignore those markings and actually speed up to get faster through that zone. This is why most accidents happen either they involve motorised vehicles or not. The most common reasons for hazardous driving conditions due to road work are high speed, improper signing and markings, the lack of attention in drivers, workers or other participants to the traffic, disruptions and distractions or forcing the circulation.
There have been many awareness campaigns about respecting the warnings on roads and signs in general, yet more and more accidents happen. There is a colour code that is used to enhance the importance, urgency and the purpose of each and every one of them and there are also other markings The main rule of warning signs and other markings for working roads consist of orange coloured cones, plates and clothing pieces wore by the construction workers. Disrespecting the rules doesn’t go unpunished as there are high penalties for speeding and cutting the lines.
Road safety for workers and drivers
Firstly, roads under construction or maintenance have to be well managed by the workers and the company that runs the project, otherwise the possibility of accidents will be higher, because most of them happen if the signs and markings are not in concordance with the event. So, for a well-done management, the signs have to be clean and properly arranged on the working area and around it. The workers and the ones that control traffic, need to have a standard training in these fields and have a good communication through the necessary devices. It is important to make an announcement in mass media about the following impediments, but also mark them on the maps and GPS apps. Moreover, people that work on the site have to wear proper and visual clothes with reflective stripes. The signs that may confuse drivers should be removed because those can make them care less and hazardous.
Safety measures for workers
As far as the safety for workers, they have to take care of their lives from many perspectives, such as the work itself, traffic but also angry drivers that might throw things at them, plus the hot or cold weather. They have to be protected by heat and sunburns by wearing sunscreen, hats and/or long-sleeved clothes, but also noise blocking headsets and masks because hearing and respiration may be affected as well. Concerning their health, they should ring enough water to keep themselves properly hydrated (a cup every 20 minutes) and they should have proper training concerning working and manoeuvring the heavy equipment and all kinds of traffic. Site masters should give accurate and proper instructions to new workers about the protective gear, how to set up a safe zone around the site, how to manage traffic and how to stay alert at all times.
Safety measures for drivers
For drivers the best way to avoid accidents and discomfort around working areas they should avoid that zone altogether. However, if there is no possibility for that, in order to eliminate delays, they should leave earlier and manage their schedules in their favour. Moreover, as a general rule, drivers need to pay attention on the road at any times, especially when working sites are signalised ahead on their way. Traffic participants and their passengers should keep their eyes open for any possible inconvenience or danger in order to avoid it. Distractions, like phones, tablets, other devices, eating, drinking or smoking while driving are to be eliminated for caution. Vehicles need to be kept at a safe distance from one another and vigilance is required in case reckless drivers cut the line and put their lives and others at danger. They should be responsible and respect the speed limit and other indications from signs or designated workers and also should get in the right line in time, not at the last moment. On the contrary of speeding up, slowing down will get them safer through the construction site.