Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 20, 2013

See cones, use caution

The issue: Highway work zone safety.

Our view: Be patient and stay calm when driving near road construction crews.

Though temperatures don’t reflect it, it’s spring in Indiana. And with the changing seasons, Hoosiers can count on the return of thunderstorms, daffodils and miles of orange cones on our highways.

The cones oftentimes are the only things separating fast-moving, two-ton vehicles from road construction crews. The crewmen’s very lives are dependent upon attentive driving by motorists.

But what those motorists might not realize is they’re more at risk of injury and death than the workers.

The Federal Highway Administration reports nearly 2.4 million people were injured and 37,261 were killed on our nation’s roads in 2008. That same year, however, 720 of those deaths occurred in work zones — 2 percent of all roadway fatalities. In addition, more than 40,000 injuries occur in work zones.

That’s one work zone death every 10 hours, and one work zone injury every 13 minutes. What’s more, more than 4 out of 5 work zone deaths were motorists.

The week of April 15 is National Work Zone Awareness Week, an annual reminder to use caution while driving near work crews. Most work zone accidents can be avoided, the Federal Highway Administration says. It offers these 10 tips for driving safely in work zones:

• Expect the unexpected. Normal speed limits might be reduced, traffic lanes might be changed and people might be working on or near the road.

• Slow down. Speeding is one of the primary causes of work zone crashes.

• Don’t tailgate. Keep a safe distance between you and the car ahead. The most common crash in a highway work zone is the rear-end collision.

• Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and workers and their equipment.

• Pay attention to signs. Warning signs are there to help you and other drivers move safely through the work zone.

• Obey road crew flaggers. A flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign, so you can be cited for disobeying his or her directions.

• Stay alert and minimize distractions. Dedicate your full attention to the roadway and avoid changing radio stations or using cellphones in a work zone.

• Keep up with the traffic flow. Motorists can help maintain pace by merging as soon as possible. Don’t drive right up to the lane closure and then try to barge in.

• Schedule enough time to drive safely. Expect delays.

Be patient and stay calm. Work zones aren’t there to personally inconvenience you.