Driving safely in construction zones stressed
With construction zones surrounding Carson City, the Nevada Highway Patrol wants to educate motorists to be vigilant and cautious on the roadways.
Between July 2014 and July 2015, Nevada saw more than 1,000 crashes in construction zones, with a dozen fatalities total, and two occurring in Washoe Valley. To combat this, NHP and the Nevada Department of Transportation hosted the National Work Zone Awareness Week this past week.
“We have had 12 fatalities in work zones in a year, so this week is to advise people and remind them to be vigilant in areas where NDOT is working,” said NHP Trooper Duncan Dauber. “They aren’t always looking for traffic because they are focused on their work so it is our responsibility to watch out for them.”
“It’s a joint effort on safety,” Dauber added. “The NDOT worker has the responsibility to keep himself safe, but it is also up to the motorist to be minding his Ps and Qs.”
Construction zones around Carson City currently include the Carson Street makeover, the Washoe Valley lane widening and the Douglas County bridge work.
“NDOT and our transportation partners are here to provide safe and mobile transportation for Nevadans,” NDOT Director Rudy Malfabon said in a press release. “While workers are making road improvements to provide us all with a safer and smoother commute, we want to remind drivers to give them a ‘brake.’ That means slowing down and driving safely anytime you’re on the road, and particularly in road work zones.”
Dauber said problems such a speeding and hazardous moving play a large factor in these fatal crashes. To fix this, Governor Brian Sandoval enacted a new policy a state trooper or Department of Public Safety officer must be on scene at a work zone on Nevada Highways, similar to policies used by the California Highway Patrol. They hope this will reduce speed and other problems if motorists see a marked vehicle in the construction zone.
“People just need to be mindful of construction zones and take the time to prepare for the construction zones,” Dauber said.
At the construction zone in Douglas, NDOT places multiple warning signs nearly a half mile before the actual construction zone, including a merge where the road goes down to one lane. Merges like that one are another problem NHP sees with construction zones because motorists don’t plan properly and often wait until the last minute to merge, which can be dangerous for everyone around that area.
Speed is also dangerous in these areas because often construction zones are congested with traffic and people are traveling too closely together.
“The rule of thumb is to shoot for a distance of three to four seconds between each car,” Dauber said. “This gives you a two second real world reaction to hit your brakes if something happens and still gives yourself a few seconds to stop safely.”
Besides the safety factor, motorists caught speeding or breaking other laws inside a construction zone faces a doubled fine of up to $1,000 and doubled points on their driving record. Dauber said, for instance, a hazardous moving violation can result in a fine and an upwards of eight points on your record, which is a lot since the Department of Motor Vehicles only allows drivers to have 12 points on their record each year.
“People think of the short term of citations, but they don’t think about the fact that it can take a couple of years to reduce those points off of your record,” Dauber said. “And your insurance rates are going to go up because they do not look favorably on that.”
“Driving is a responsibility that people expect you to know what you are doing on the road,” Dauber said. “When you sign for a driver’s license you are saying you know what is expected of you and in a construction zone a lot more is expected of you because you need to be keeping vigilant. When a crash occurs here you can really hurt someone because in construction zones, not everyone is protected by a vehicle.”
Work zone driving tips and information on major NDOT road projects is available at http://www.nevadadot.com. Updates on current state road conditions are available by logging onto http://www.nvroads.com or calling ‘511’ before driving.