Does this sight look familiar? Road construction seems to be in full swing within the State of Maine, just in time for tourist season. The photo above depicts a common sight during the summer months along our roadways, and although many lament the timing of such projects, we must remember that this is Maine after-all, and there is only a limited time frame in which to conduct this type of maintenance and repair. Unfortunately, this year, the bulk of this work seems to be occurring at the height of the season, a natural time of increased accident risk due to the influx of activity upon our highways and streets. This represents some cause for concern for our citizens, the workmen themselves, as well as for our State’s visitors.
Please exercise caution in these situations. According to the Maine Department of Transportation, 560 accidents, 3 fatalities, and over 200 injuries occurred within State work zone areas in 2010. Ad campaigns geared toward work zone safety have everyone in mind, not just the workers. While it is probably not shocking to learn that most accidents in these areas are rear-end collisions; it may surprise you to discover that the majority of fatalities involve drivers and their passengers, not the workers themselves. The most common collision cause cited in the 2010 “Crash Data” report was due to inattentive or distracted drivers; followed by unsafe vehicle trailing distance, speed, and failure to yield.
We are all responsible for the safety and well-being of those around us. The workmen are responsible for meeting safety standard requirements concerning work zone set up and maintenance, and for properly managing traffic flow. Drivers have responsibilities too.
Here are some suggested practices to help you safely navigate work zones:
Reduce speed and increase trailing distance. Work zones are dangerous and because they represent altered travel paths it is important to slow down and increase your trailing distance between cars. This will allow for time to successfully interpret and navigate through unfamiliar territory as well as provide precious space and seconds to react, if necessary. Posted speed limits vary within work zones and fines are usually doubled. Within the State of Maine, this applies even when work is not currently in progress.
Pay attention to all traffic signs, diversion devices, and flagging assistants, as they are intended to guide us safely through the area. Follow their direction at the earliest possible opportunity to assist in traffic flow and safety. Failure to heed a flagger’s direction can lead to a citation.
Be diligent and expect the unexpected. Complete undivided attention is required in work zone areas. You may experience, reduced speed limits and visibility, road detours and driving constraints, workers, equipment and materials on the roadway, unexpected vehicle stops, as well as unusual pedestrian or cyclist patterns, or even aggressive drivers.
Be Patient. (If you think “risk” it will make it easier) Workmen are there to improve our infrastructure and everyone present is trying to interpret the situation, just as you are; many for the first time. Cautious transit will limit delays. Remember that frustration is a stepping-stone toward aggression, which can lead to disaster when behind the wheel. Recognizing that workmen’s sensory perceptions will be diminished, and that commuter’s perceptions will likely be overloaded, certainly helps illicit the necessary concern required for these situations.
Keep this advice in mind; you may need it. Congress recently extended the availability of an additional $1.7 billion dollars to States over the next two years to be used for road projects through its surface transportation bill in an effort to stimulate economic growth and improve the country’s infrastructure. Therefore, it’s likely that we will see more transportation projects in the near future.
When traveling, you may want to utilize Maine’s Travel Information Service website at www.511maine.org to help plan your route or to anticipate traffic delays. This website offers detailed information about road construction as well as traffic advisories and delays and can be extremely helpful if you are concerned about travel along the interstates. It can also be used to report unsafe motorist or worker conditions observed along the highway such as displaced barriers, signs, or debris. Dangers can also be reported via cellphone, by dialing 511. Taking action may very well save a life!
In addition, if you encounter emergency vehicles or vehicles assisting in an accident using emergency lights, remember the Move Over Law. Title 29-A §2054-9 requires drivers approaching such vehicles to move over to the adjacent lane if possible when passing, or if not prudent, to reduce speed to ensure safety. Failure to comply with this legislation could result in a minimum fine of $311 dollars.
To protect ourselves, as well as those around us, in work zone or emergency assistance areas, our reactions should become as ingrained as those we experience and exhibit when entering a school zone. The Briggs & Wholey attorneys hope that an increased awareness of work zone safety will help create this level of caution, patience, and attentive concern necessary to prevent injury and save lives.
What is that saying in Maine, “You can’t get there from here?” Well you can; it just may take you a little longer this summer.
Wishing you safe travels~
For more information regarding work zone accidents and traffic safety refer to the following websites: