How to Stay Safe While Driving
in Construction Zones



By Jeff Burns -

With the onset of fall, highway construction crews are out in force to try to complete repairs before winter.

Government-contracted construction projects have no sympathy for your commute time, so when weather permits the orange vests are out in full force. Work zones can be a minor inconvenience for civilian drivers, but they can turn deadly if large trucks are involved.

Construction zone crash statistics

Understanding the whole picture of construction zone crashes may help you avoid one.

  • 68 percent of work zone crashes are multiple vehicle crashes (University of Kansas).
  • The three most frequent types of multiple vehicle crashes in work zones are rear-end collisions, head-on collisions and angle-side collisions (University of Kansas).
  • 40 percent of work zone crashes are caused by heavy trucks (University of Kansas).
  • 85 percent of deaths in work zone crashes are suffered by drivers and passengers in civilian vehicles (Federal Highway Administration).
  • 25 to 30 percent of fatal work zone crashes involve large trucks (Federal Highway Administration).
  • In crashes involving cars and heavy trucks, failure to slow down in a work zone is cited as the third leading cause, including the fault of both truckers and civilian drivers. (Federal Highway Administration).

Facts to remember in a work zone

Understanding where and why work zone crashes happen is half the battle, but it can also help to remind yourself of the perspective of your fellow drivers in high-risk areas.

  • When traffic is stopped or substantially slowed, leave room between you and the vehicle in front of you. Keep an eye on the traffic behind you as well. If you see a big truck coming up behind you without slowing or stopping, your life may well depend on you being able to somehow get out of its line of travel.
  • Aside from being potentially very expensive, speeding in a work zone is dangerous for you, your passengers and other drivers.
  • Large trucks, especially overloaded ones, often don’t fit fully in narrow work zone lanes. Don’t drive next to them or try to pass them in these areas.
  • Lanes can be uneven in work zones, causing you or other drivers to easily swerve into the next lane. Avoid driving directly next to anyone in work zones if you can.
  • Truckers are trained to protect workers on the road before civilian drivers. If they need to swerve, they will swerve into the next lane rather than onto the shoulder.
  • Trucks take longer to stop than civilian vehicles. If a trucker doesn’t see an obstruction in time, the driver may have to slam on the brakes. Don’t follow them too closely under any circumstances.
  • If you’re driving in a high-risk area next to a large truck, you are in significantly more danger than the truck driver. Protect yourself by staying visible and keeping a safe distance.

For more tips on driving safely next to large trucks, check the Dollar Burns and Becker website here.

For more tips on driving safely in work zones, check the Missouri Department of Transportation website here.