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The Orange Barrels are Back


We are right in the middle of summer, which means we are right in the middle of orange barrel season. Not only do those barrels signal inconvenience and delays, but they often translate into more dangerous roadways. A total of 765 people died in work zone crashes nationwide in 2016, a 7 percent increase from 712 deaths in 2015, according to the Federal Highway Administration. A total of 143 road workers died in road construction sites nationally in 2016, according to the FHWA. Below are additional statistics regarding work zone accidents:

• During the past 5 years in work zone crashes more than:

◦ 4,400 persons died (85 percent of which was the driver or passenger)

◦ 200,000 persons were injured

• Drivers are the most frequent fatality in work zone crashes

• Most work zone fatalities involve working-age adults

• Rear-end crashes (running into the rear of a slowing or stopping vehicle) are the most common type of work zone crash.

• The majority of fatal work zone crashes occurred on roads with speed limits greater than 50 mph.

• Stopping distance for motor vehicles at 50 mph:

◦ Dry roadway~300 ft

◦ Wet roadway~400 ft

◦ Icy pavement~1250 ft

• It takes only an extra 25 seconds to cover 1 mile at 45 mph compared to 65 mph—so slow down!


To avoid accidents, regulations require that all road construction crews clearly designate the beginning and end of any active road work zones. Workers must cover construction zones with orange cones, wear bright vests, and place warning signs to notify drivers to reduce speed and increase caution. In addition, construction companies have the legal duty to properly train road crew in safety measures and the crews have the duty to keep the road zone safe for passing motorists.


In work zones, traffic can back up and drivers often leave little or no space between their own cars and leading vehicles. Drivers frustrated by slower work zone speeds or heavy traffic sometimes become more aggressive and exhibit road rage. The tightly packed area may leave little room for motorists to escape an accident, especially when parts of the road are closed due to construction.


With the congestion, narrow lanes, road workers and numerous distractions at construction zones, it is paramount that drivers stay calm, focused and follow instructions. Below are some tips from the U.S. DOT Federal Highway Administration, to keep those orange barrel areas safe:

1. In any work zone along any road, major or minor, Expect the Unexpected. Normal speed limits may be reduced, traffic lanes may be changed, and people and vehicles may be working on or near the road.

2. Diamond-shaped orange warning signs are posted in advance of road construction projects. Slow down! Be alert! Pay attention to the signs!

3. In addition to other warning signs, a "flagger ahead" warning sign may be posted in the work zone. When you see this, stay alert and be prepared to obey the flagger's directions. In a work zone, a flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign, so you can be cited for disobeying his or her directions.

4. Stay calm. Work zones aren't there to personally inconvenience you. They're necessary to improve the roads for everyone.

5.You may see flashing arrow panels or "lane closed ahead" signs. Merge as soon as possible. Don't zoom right up to the lane closure, then try to barge in - if everyone cooperates, traffic moves more efficiently. Motorists can help maintain traffic flow and posted speeds by moving to the appropriate lane at first notice of an approaching work zone.

6. Slow down when the signs say to. A car traveling 60 m.p.h. travels 88 feet per second. If you're going 60 m.p.h., and you pass a sign that states, “Road Work 1,500 feet,” you'll be in that work zone in 17 seconds.

7. The most common crash in a highway work zone is the rear-end collision, so remember to leave two seconds of braking distance between you and the car in front of you. The amount of space required to provide two seconds of stopping time will increase the faster you're driving!

8. Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment and workers. Just like you, highway workers want to return home safely after each day's work.

9. Some work zones - like line painting, road patching and mowing are mobile, moving down the road as the work is finished. Just because you don't see the workers immediately after you see the warning signs doesn't mean they're not out there. Observe the posted signs until you see the one that states you've left the work zone.

10. Highway agencies use many different and varying ways to inform motorists about the location and duration of major work zones. Often, the agencies will suggest a detour to help you avoid the work zone entirely. Plan ahead, and try an alternate route.


If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident in a roadway construction zone, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free evaluation of your legal rights.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

Phone: (678) 264-8348.
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