Work Zones And Lane Closures: A Dangerous Combination For Workers And Motorists
Continued progress is valuable to the community, even if it comes at a major inconvenience at first. As we approach the first day of Spring, 2017, construction projects abound. The Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced additional lane closures as "Transform 285/400" marches on, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The right and left lanes will be closed in an alternating fashion from night to night on I-285 Westbound. The DOT will keep the lanes closed from 8 pm to 6 am. Additionally, one lane of I-285 East will be closed during the same hours.
Atlanta-area residents and commuters should expect additional closures. The Beltline will close from March 20 to April 17. The area will be closed to all traffic 24-hours per day during that stretch. Both pedestrians and motorists will be re-routed around the Eastside trial. These closures are expected to impact vehicular and pedestrian traffic adversely.
Lane closures and traffic re-routing can cause enormous commuting problems. Not only do lane closures create tremendous back-ups, despite the times of the closure, but they can also create confusion among drivers. Traffic tie-ups and motorist confusion create a dangerous situation for the drivers and the workers in the construction areas as well. In 2015, 1,430 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in Georgia. Thirty-nine of those mortally wounded were construction workers in work zones. Other Southeastern states fared better than others for construction workers and motorists alike in 2015:
• In Florida 2,939 people died in motor vehicle accidents, 73 of whom were killed in construction zones;
• In Alabama, 849 people were killed in crashes, and 24 of those people were in construction zones;
• In North Carolina, 1,379 people and only nine people were killed in construction zones;
• In South Carolina, 997 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents, and merely two were in a construction zone; and
• In Tennessee, 958 people died in vehicular accidents while only 17 were in construction zones.
The statistical variances from state to state may depend upon various factors. Factors contributing to the relative danger for motorists and workers alike may depend on how much construction is on-going, the volume of drivers, larger populations, and law enforcement techniques. Warning signs and posting of alternative routes with sufficient warning for the motorist are two of the many methods construction contractors can use to increase driver and worker safety in construction zones.
The Georgia DOT commenced a public awareness campaign designed to increase the safety of drivers, passengers, and workers in construction zones. The Georgia DOT wants drivers to be aware that:
• Work zones are not always stationary. They can, and do, frequently move. For example, litter collection or road sweeping operators may be moving slowly down the road;
• Drive alert. No texting or phone usage, pay attention for emergency vehicles and workers. Slow down when approaching flaggers, obey flaggers' commands and signs, be ready to stop quickly if necessary, and do not speed or tailgate.
• Georgia's Move Over Law draws additional attention to the need for vehicle operators to pay close attention to the activities on the side of the road. Drivers must move over one lane and slow down when approaching roadside emergency or construction vehicles.
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