Detours. Lane closures. Moving equipment and those big, orange barriers. Over the past 5 years, the Federal Highway Administration estimates over 200,000 injuries and another 4,400 fatalities were related to roadwork and construction zone auto crashes. And since drivers are most frequently the casualties of these terrible (and largely preventable) accidents, we all need to take caution and stay alert each and every time we enter the cone zone. Here are 7 tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe.

1. Don’t tailgate

Tailgating is an aggressive and careless behavior, and it’s especially dangerous in a roadwork zone. Rear-end crashes (hitting the rear of a slowing or stopping vehicle) are the most common type of roadwork zone crashes and tailgating is often to blame. When entering a roadwork zone, take care to slow down immediately, making sure to maintain a safe following distance between your car and the car in front of you.

Remember these stopping distances for motor vehicles going 50 mph:

Dry roadways: about 300 feet
Wet roadways: about 400 feet
Icy pavement: about 1250 feet

2. Minimize distractions

Work zones are unpredictable. Navigating them safely requires your full attention. In other words, now is not the time to check your voicemail, change the radio station, or polish off your morning danish. Watch for brake lights on vehicles ahead of you, be careful of workers and their vehicles, keep both hands on the wheel, and always stay alert and focused on the task at hand.

(Related: Check out the surprising results from an Esurance survey on distracted driving and tech.)

3. Obey the posted speed limit

Reduced speed limits are posted for a reason. Whether workers are present or the road conditions demand it, observing posted speed limits helps keep everyone safe. And ask anyone who’s ever been unlucky enough to get a ticket for speeding through one fines are often doubled for moving traffic violations in work zones. So do yourself a favor and slow it down.

4. Turn on your headlights

It’s a simple, but effective act. Turning on your headlights as you enter a work zone helps workers and other drivers see you better. Already in a vehicle with daytime running lights? Do it anyway.

5. Change lanes and merge with care

We’ve all seen those drivers who speed up to a lane closure barrier and then try to cut the line at the last possible second. Help maintain traffic flow by anticipating lane shifts when you see posted signs indicating a lane closure and merging in advance whenever possible. Once inside a roadwork zone, change lanes only when signs or pavement markings indicate it’s necessary.

6. Watch for flaggers

Keep on the lookout for flaggers or other crew members directing traffic and be prepared to follow their cues.

7. Be patient

Maybe you’re running late. Maybe you just missed your exit. Maybe you’re annoyed from sitting in stalled traffic. Despite your mood or personal circumstance, staying calm and driving with care helps to keep you and everyone else on the road safe. Remember: this too shall pass!

Car safety is serious business. Take care out there and make sure your auto insurer has your back. Get a car insurance quote today to see how much you could save with Esurance.

Safe and smart | Car safety


about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.