Editorial: Be safe during road work season

Published 9:12 am Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A saying goes that there are two seasons in Minnesota: winter and road construction.

Perhaps never more so than this year does that seem true. There remains snow on the ground, and yet on Wednesday the Minnesota Department of Transportation announces its summer work plans.

Much of the snow is likely to melt this Easter weekend, as highs reach into the 40s and possibly 50s, and as soon as the white stuff becomes wet stuff, road repair crews will be out on the highways and byways.

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By the way, readers of the Albert Lea Tribune received a look Sunday at projects in our region, in advance of the MnDOT media blitz.

Now is a good time to remember to stay safe in road construction zones, and not just because the traffic fines double. Statistics show young men are the worst offenders in construction zones, and they have the most crash deaths, too. Here are good tips we found from various sources:

• Obey signs quickly. As soon as a sign asks drivers to do something, they should do it.

• Avoid last-minute changes. Pick a lane, don’t keep changing.

• Do the zipper. Use all the roadway available when a merge is ahead. It actually keeps things moving faster than a long, single-file line.

• Slow to a safe speed. Good motorists obey the speed limits. Great motorists know when to go even slower because equipment and people are close to automobile traffic.

• Never enter a work zone. It seems obvious to never cross the barricade signs, orange cones or other blockers, yet people do it, and sometimes — as happened on Freeborn County Road 34 in 2008 — it can have deadly consequences.

• Be alert for moving work zones. These might be stripe painters or vegetation crews. They might be moving slower than 10 mph on a highway, so be ready.

• Give big rigs extra distance in work zones. Semis that are fully loaded are not capable of rapid acceleration and deceleration. And they are hard to see around. Linger back and give them extra room.

• Watch for drop-offs. One of the most common causes of work zone fatalities is rollovers, MnDOT says. Drop-offs form when a roadway lacks a shoulder. A wheel goes off the pavement, and if there is a steep decline, it can roll.

• Watch for the flagger. MnDOT says they are killed more often than any other worker in work zones. It is a state law to obey flaggers. Maintain safe distances when following pilot cars, too.

• Do not pull over to the shoulder in a construction zone. There already is a lot for drivers to monitor in work zones. Stopping only creates the potential for a mistake.

• Plan. Leaving early allows time for encounters with road construction, and stopping at the 511mn.org website also lets drivers plan a route with fewer interruptions. Dial 511 on phones to get traffic updates. On Twitter, MnDOT’s name is @mndottraffic.