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Driving Safely in Construction Zones

Construction zones are home to some grim statistics. According to the latest National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse statistics, in 2021 alone, there were 956 work zone fatalities, 42,000 estimated work zone injuries, and 106,000 estimated work zone crashes. And yet despite this alarming information, we often fail to put forth the effort necessary to stay safe in construction zones – even when we know what hazards may be present. Today’s blog provides a complete overview of construction zones – from speed limits and laws to safety tips so we can better understand these zones and work to improve these harsh statistics.

Construction Zone Speed Limits

Speed limits in work zones are established to keep your workers and all others on the road safe. But typically, there is no across-the-board speed limit. In fact, the speed limit in a construction zone can vary based on the road, its proximity to other traffic and the type of work being done. To illustrate, here are some examples of speed limits in construction zones across North America.

Construction Zone Speed Limit in the United States

In the United States, the speed limit in a construction zone is determined by the state and therefore varies. In general, the average work zone speed limit is between 45 mph and 55 mph, however, on any divided highway in the US, the maximum work zone speed limit shall not exceed 55 mph.

Construction Zone Speed Limit in Ontario

Most construction zone speed limits in Ontario range from 50 km/h to 70 km/h on highways, with secondary and regional roads calling on drivers to slow down even more. 

Construction Zone Speed Limit in BC

In British Columbia, there is no set construction zone speed limit. Rather, drivers rely on each zones traffic signs to dictate precisely how fast they can travel. In the event that there is no speed limit posted, Division 47 in the Motor Vehicle Act states that it then depends on the speed limit on that section of road. For example, if the posted speed limit is greater than 80 km/h, drivers must slow down to 70 km/h. However, if the posted speed is less than 80 km/h, drivers must slow down to 40 km/h. In addition, any regular speed limit of 40 km/h or under remains the same unless otherwise specified by a temporary traffic sign.

Construction Zone Speed Limits in Alberta

In Alberta, construction zone speed limits range from 50km/h to 100 km/h, depending on the site, with gradual decreases as you approach the work zone.

What are the penalties for unsafe driving in a work zone?

Across North America, penalties are used to hold drivers accountable for unsafe driving practices that put workers at risk. For first-time offenders, these penalties generally come in the form of fines and demerit points. But for subsequent offenders, penalties become more severe, often resulting in license suspension.

In Ontario, fines for speeding can double in and around construction sites. Drivers can be fined up to $500 and gain up to three demerit points for speeding in one of these areas. Over in BC, typical work zone infractions include using an electronic device while driving ($368), speeding ($196+) disobeying a traffic control person ($121) and disobeying a flag person ($196).

Across the border in the US, the law varies from state to state. Some states increase the penalty for speeding in a work zone only if there are signs posted warning drivers of the work zone and there are workers present. In other states, the fine for speeding is enhanced regardless.

For example, in the state of Illinois, the speed limit in a construction zone is 45 mph. If a driver speeds in a construction zone, they are fined $375 and can be ordered to appear in court. The penalties also get much steeper for subsequent offences. If it happens again, the fine goes up to $1,000 and the driver will have their license suspended for 90 days.

However, in Minnesota, for a person to be charged the following must occur: a person must be driving over the posted speed limit, a construction sign announcing the work zone must be present, and workers must be present at the work zone during the time of the offence.

4 Expert Tips to Ensure Worker Safety in Construction Zones

In work zones, you can’t always control other drivers, but you can control how prepared your team is to handle them. In construction zones, that means ensuring worker safety. Here are some pro tips to help your workers stay safe:

1. Provide Your Team with Safety Equipment

Ensuring worker safety is a top priority for any business, but it’s especially important for construction companies. As such, it’s important that you provide your crew with the safety equipment they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) requires all road construction workers to wear safety equipment, including hats/helmets, vests, goggles, gloves, boots, and reflective or high-visibility clothing, to ensure they’re visible to others on the road and on job site.

2. Establish Perimeters and Work Areas

Work zones are often chaotic. To avoid accidents and ensure everyone has enough space to work, it’s important to establish perimeters and work areas. With cones, barrels, and barricades you can clearly distinguish areas of work for storage, where heavy equipment is used, and safe zones for your workers.

3. Implement Proper Training

Proper training is essential for all members of your team. Before entering the worksite, all workers should have received all relevant safety training, including how to operate specific tools and equipment, what the site-specific work zone hazards may be and what to do in the event of an emergency. This includes ensuring that all workers understand what their role is on any given job, how their responsibilities fit into the larger project, as well as how they can contribute towards achieving your goals.

4. Keep flaggers out of harm’s way with North America Traffic’s AFAD

Flaggers are the most visible and at-risk workers on construction sites. They place themselves directly in the path of traffic and are therefore more likely to be struck by other vehicles. Fortunately, there is a safe alternative: North America Traffic’s RCF2.4 Automated Flagger Assistance Device (AFAD).

The AFAD remains to be the safest alternative to human flaggers for temporary, short-term work-zone traffic control. Rather than risk the safety of your Traffic Control Person, the AFAD is operated via remote control, from a safe location. With the RCF2.4 you can ensure traffic flows smoothly in and around your work zone while confirming there are fewer safety risks for your traffic control person.

Minimize the risk of Construction Zones with NAT

Construction zones are inherently dangerous places. That’s why it’s important to minimize the risks where you can with North America Traffic’s leading traffic control solutions. Our portable traffic signals and automated flagger assistance devices allow you to keep your workers safe, reduce congestion and maintain an orderly flow of traffic. To learn more about our innovative solutions, contact us today.