Watch out! Construction Zones

Bridge Accident

 FM 2484 Bridge Incident

At about 11:30AM, Thursday, March 26, a Lares Trucking (Crowley,TX) flatbed carrying a “cherry picker” lift-truck on northbound I-35 (between Waco and Austin) crossed under the under-construction FM 2484 overpass located on the north side of Salado, striking the bridge beams. Several beams fell, one on a pickup driven by Clark Brandon Davis of Arlington. Davis was 32 years old and left behind a daughter. Three people were injured, including a driver for CR England, who was airlifted from the scene.

Three warning signs were posted within two miles of the bridge indicating the bridge height was 13 feet and 6 inches. Actual bridge height was about 14 feet. Lares Trucking was not permitted to haul an over-height load, according to TX-DPS, required for loads over 14 feet high.

Construction Zone Facts

Every year hundreds of people (mostly drivers) are killed (over 720 people in 2008) and over 40,000 are injured in construction zones.

Construction zone speeds can change — and lanes may shift — quickly, if one is not paying attention.

There are distractions or even hidden hazards (like people, construction vehicles or even rail crossings) in construction zones.

It’s easy to miss important safety cues.

Legal Considerations

Fines (and points on your license) are doubled in construction zones, in a number of states. Fines may be higher when workers are present.

The flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign. A driver be cited for failing to obey a flagger’s directions.

All temporary signs in construction work zones have an orange background and black letters or symbols. Temporary signs may indicate how soon you will encounter the work zone, what to do, and the work zone speed limit. Observe posted signs until you see the one that says “End Road Work.” Watch for restricted or closed lanes.

There are high fines and even jail time for killing road workers, depending on the circumstances and the state.

Negotiating the Construction Zone

Focus. Focus. Focus. Pay extra attention to traffic and traffic signs.

Night construction zones are doubly dangerous. No matter how well lit the road, everything is harder to see. Slow down.

Expect and plan for delays. Leave a “time safety margin” by leaving early.

Better yet, use an alternative route and avoid adding to the construction zone congestion.

Texting, cell phones, the radio, CB, food and drink, maps, directions, etc., are distractions and can turn into incidents, accidents, or deadly distractions.

Leave extra space around your vehicle. If possible and safe to do so, adjust your lane position away from the side where workers and equipment are located. Increase your following distance and expect vehicles ahead to brake or slow suddenly.

If traffic backs up, expect motorcycles to drive along the shoulder or “right-of-way.” They are encouraged to do this by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, so they don’t get pinned between two vehicles in ‘stop and go’ situations.

Don’t be a “traffic cop,” by blocking other vehicles or not showing a spirit of cooperation.

Thanks for reading this. Drive friendly.