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Slow down, stay focused in road work zones

| June 17, 2022 1:00 AM

As construction zones spring up across the state to tackle road repairs and catch up on routine maintenance, AAA reminds drivers to slow down and watch for road workers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 857 people were killed in work zones in 2020, up from 845 the year before. While the number of deaths in cars actually decreased, there was a big jump in the number of crash fatalities among bicyclists and people on foot, with road workers making up the vast majority of work zone pedestrians.

“Road crews have a very short window of opportunity in the summer months to complete essential work on our highways and bridges,” says AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde. “They look out for our safety, and it’s only fair that we return the favor.”

AAA offers the following tips to help drivers safely navigate road construction:

Slow down. Most work zones have reduced speed limits — breaking them puts road workers at risk and could lead to an expensive ticket. Speed was a factor in 37% of fatal work zone crashes in 2020.

Ditch the distractions. Turn over texting and navigation duties to a trusted co-pilot and put down snacks and anything else that may take your eyes off the road.

Expect the unusual. Watch for unexpected conditions, such as lane changes and merges, bumps and abrupt lane edges, flaggers, and heavy equipment entering and exiting the area. Don’t blindly rely on GPS in work zones — instead, follow signs and instructions from workers on-site.

“Keep in mind that work crews may be present in the early morning and late at night, not just during the day,” Conde said. “If you see cones and barrels, assume that workers are there, too.”

Watch for sudden stops. Work zones often lead to congestion and traffic delays. In 2020, 20% of all fatal work zone crashes involved rear-end collisions.

“Every state, including Idaho, has a ‘Slow Down, Move Over’ law. Please slow down below the speed limit when approaching an emergency vehicle with flashing lights on the side of the road and, if possible, move over at least one lane to provide workers with additional space to do their job,” Conde said. “To keep your focus on safe driving, a good rule of thumb when you see an emergency vehicle, tow truck, or construction crew is to act like your loved ones are there.”

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