Sunday morning September 15th, there was a terrible accident on the interstate in Macon. 18-year-old Alyssa Jackson of Warner Robins, was driving a 2017 Hyundai Elantra, on I-16 Westbound, heading towards I-75 South. For reasons left unclear by the police report, the car left the road, hit the concrete guardrails, went airborne, then down the embankment, landing under the bridge next to the railroad tracks and catching fire. Jackson survived the crash but is listed in critical condition.
The I-16/I-75 interchange has always been an area prone to traffic accidents. There is a current $500 million improvement project underway in the area with the hopes of correcting this, but in the mean time as construction is in full swing, the danger level may have been increased. As such it is up to the DOT (and in some cases contracted construction companies) to take care of the following issues to keep drivers safe.
Water Hazards: Roads, streets, and driveways should be designed and maintained so water runs off the roadway. If roads are not designed and maintained correctly, the water will run onto the roadway and settle on the roads. Water running onto the roadway or standing on the roadway is very unsafe. This faulty design can result in cars and trucks hydroplaning. The DOT and construction companies are required to prevent such water hazard problems.
Materials Near Lanes: To prevent cars from hitting trees or construction-related materials, these objects should be a safe distance away from a lane of travel. Many times, serious or deadly wrecks occur because a car hit an object adjacent to a travel lane. If the object adjacent to the travel lane was not there, the car would be able to get back on the road or stop without anyone getting hurt. There are many rules that the DOT and cities and counties must follow to make sure objects, such as trees or vehicles, are not located too close to travel lanes.
Dangerous Shoulders: Paved and grass shoulders of roadways should be smooth, not too steep or narrow, and/or protected by safely-designed guardrails. The DOT and the cities and counties have a responsibility to make sure the shoulder of the roadway is safe and meets standards.
Construction Vehicles: When the DOT and construction companies are reworking a road, you will likely see dump trucks, tractor-trailers, bulldozers, cranes, trucks, and other vehicles entering and exiting the construction zone. The DOT and construction companies must provide a way for these heavy vehicles to accelerate, exit the construction zone, and merge into existing traffic. The drivers of these vehicles must also avoid entering the roadway at slow, unsafe speeds. Unfortunately, many wrecks in construction zones occur because the DOT and construction companies do not adhere to these requirements.
Of course not all accidents in construction zones are the fault of the DOT not following through with these safety measures, after all not all drivers obey the rules. Construction zones become even more dangerous at night, as visibility is reduced. This is also when the most construction workers are present, as crews try to take advantage of fewer cars on the road. This strategy attempts to not only minimize traffics delays but also to reduce the risk for the workers present. The thinking is fewer cars, fewer opportunities for an accident.
The most common construction zone accidents are…
Rear End Collisions: Tailgating and distracted driving, along with the failure to recognize slow or stopped traffic, often causes rear end collisions. When traffic is moving along at a normal pace, and then suddenly slows dramatically for a construction zone, it has the potential to throw off some drivers.
Sideswipes: Narrow lanes with erratic lane shifts are conducive to vehicle to vehicle, or vehicle to barrier, sideswipe accidents. Similarly, the roadway may change levels (sometimes denoted by an “uneven roadway” sign) creating an uneven surface. It is possible for a vehicle’s tire to catch this pavement and lose control, striking the vehicle or concrete barrier next to them.
Striking workers: The close proximity of workers to moving vehicles presents a constant hazard. Of all the dangers in a construction zone, this is by far the most deadly. Workers often need to cross the road or walk close to traffic in order to do their job. Construction crews and the DOT have started to put out signs that say, “SLOW DOWN, MY PARENT WORKS HERE,” to remind drivers what’s at stake.
Collisions with equipment: Slow moving work vehicles and construction equipment in or near the path of a vehicle are causes of serious accidents, also. A small sedan colliding with a 30-ton dump drunk filled with dirt and rock never ends well for the passenger vehicle. Similarly, equipment that isn’t technically a vehicle, like backhoes and rollers, may be left too close to the road also.
Collisions with warning equipment: Signs, barrels, lights, and other warning devices may not be seen until it is too late. Many construction signs are heavy, motorized pieces of equipment that can total a car if struck, causing serious injuries. Similarly, misplaced or improperly placed warning equipment may cause a driver to swerve out of the way and strike any of the above examples.
Most road and highway construction zone accidents happen in a split second, but the results can last a life time. Keeping this in mind, construction zones should always be navigated with the most caution and care possible. Keep this list of tips in mind next time you are on the road.
Be Alert: Pay attention and expect the unexpected. Be alert and watching for sudden lane shifts, uneven pavement, other driver’s proximity and construction equipment suddenly entering the roadway.
Do not tailgate: Drive as if the vehicle in front of you might stop abruptly. Keeping this in mind, you should allow plenty of distance for braking, so that if the car in front of you completely locked up their brakes, you would still have plenty of room to stop safely.
Slow down: Obey the posted speed limits approaching, and within, the work zone. Keep in mind that speeding tickets are doubled, if you need incentive. A $400 ticket could cost the average person an entire week’s pay.
Avoid distractions: The best rule for paying attention while driving is “both eyes on the road, both hands on the wheel.” If you are not doing this, then you are probably distracted. Do not change the radio station constantly, reply or send ANY texts, nor talk on or answer your cell phone.