Work Zone Safety: The Basics for Indiana Drivers

Three people are killed each day in roadway work zones throughout the United States, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDoT).  That’s one person every 8.2 hours.  There are more than 100 injuries each day and more than 40,000 total injuries every year throughout the country within roadway work zones.  Unfortunately, most of these injuries and deaths are caused by reckless and careless drivers.

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According to INDoT, one out of every three accidents within a work zone is a rear-end collision.  This tells us that motorists are following too closely, driving too fast for the conditions, or are distracted by something else.  In short, the driver is neglecting to pay attention to the road in front of him or her.  Rear-end collisions are one of the most preventable collisions if motorists travel at a safe distance and speed behind the vehicle in from of them, and pay attention to the surrounding traffic in order to provide ample time to stop. If every driver did these things, would we ever have rear-end collisions?

The speed limit through highway work zones is 45 miles-per-hour unless posted otherwise.  Always pay close attention to merging lanes, as well as orange barrels and construction signs that help direct traffic through work zones.  Speeding in a work zone is a $300 fine the first time, $500 the second time and $1,000 the third time within a three-year period.  Reckless and aggressive driving though a work zone is a Class A misdemeanor with a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.  Injuring a worker within a work zone, or drunk driving through a work zone, is a Class D felony with a punishment of up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.  This becomes a Class C felony if a worker is killed. This felony comes with a punishment of up to eight years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

If you find yourself involved in an accident within a work zone and your car still drivable, find a safe place to pull off the roadway before exiting your car.  If you find that you are injured, remain seated in your car, ask someone else to call for an ambulance, and wait for help to arrive.  If you are uninjured, check to make sure all the occupants in each vehicle involved is alright and call police to make a report.  Take pictures with your phone or camera of the scene where the collision occurred, and any damage you can see to the vehicles involved.  Be sure to trade information with all the drivers involved.  As a responsible driver you should write down each vehicles license plate number, the other drivers’ names, license numbers and phone numbers.  Also, be sure to collect each driver’s insurance information including the insurance company names and policy numbers. (Tip: Sometimes it’s easier to just take photos of this information on your phone or camera.)   And always remember, buckle up!

INDOT Work Zone Safety Rules

There are about 40,000 crashes in work zones nationally every year. Typically, if there is a fatality, it’s the driver who is killed not the worker. When road construction is taking place, the Indiana Department of Transportation must do its part to protect the safety of all construction workers as well as passing motorists. To do so, the people who set up the work zones have to follow these rules:

  • All construction sites must be clearly marked with signage as well as provide instruction for traffic flow and be placed at least 7 feet high so that drivers can see them easily
  • Workers should be doing maintenance and construction during off-peak hours when possible in order to decrease the chances of an accident
  • All workers need to wear highly visible vests and other clothing, as well as proper safety equipment like hardhats or eye protection when applicable so they are easily seen by drivers and chances of injury are lessened
  • Proper barriers between motorists and workers are also required so that work zones are distinct from the roadway
  • Flaggers need to be properly trained, possess the right equipment, as well as be properly placed for maximum visibility and safety
  • The length of the buffer lanes that warn the driver that a lane is going to merge needs to be appropriate for the speed limit and free of any work activity and materials as well as construction vehicles so that vehicles are not obstructed as they merge
  • Changeable message signs cannot contain more than two messages and must be legible at twice the posted speed limit so that drivers have the ability to read and understand current roadway conditions
  • Work zone speed limit signson a highway must be placed before the beginning of a work zone, at the point that traffic is expected to back up to, and after every interchange within the zone so that all drivers can be made aware of the appropriate speed

These are just some of the basic rules that INDOT employees must follow while working in a construction zone. There are many others that need to be followed by the book and it’s possible that not everyone setting up a work zone is familiar with each specific guideline, which is what can lead to an accident, injury, or even death in some situations.

Proper Indiana Construction Zone Setup

Each state’s Department of Transportation establishes guidelines for how construction zones should be set up and marked in their state. In this article, we’ll explore the rules established by Indiana’s INDOT and what they mean to anyone driving the state’s many roads and highways. Controlling traffic in a work zone is critical for the safety of drivers. If a contractor fails to set up their work zone properly, they could be held responsible for any accidents which occur as a result.

Determining Factors

The rules for how to set up a work zone vary depending on the kind of road work, how long the work will be going on, and when the work will be taking place. In Indiana, there are three time frames that each have their own rules: work that will take 15 minutes or less, work taking up to an hour, and work taking more than an hour.

Depending on all these factors, things like signage, barriers, directional arrows, cones, and other materials may need to be present. Each work zone should have an advance warning area, as well as a taper area that gives cars room to move into the open lane and away from the closed lanes. Depending on the speed of traffic, taper zones in Indiana could be up to 280 feet long, but should never be less than 80 feet long. The speed of traffic also impacts how many cones should be present and how far apart they should be spaced. You can view INDOT’s full set of standards on their website.

Cones and Barriers

Equally important to giving drivers advance warning to merge is that lanes are clearly divided at the appropriate points. In one 2012 accident on US-70 in Indiana, a cement truck drove into wet cement when the wet patch wasn’t properly divided from the highway. This caused the truck to overturn and crush a nearby SUV, killing one passenger and severely injuring another. The cement truck driver was also injured.

The Importance of Compliance

When a contractor fails to set up a work zone properly, it puts the workers and the drivers on the road at risk. If a taper zone is too short, cars might not have time to merge into a single lane and could collide. Drivers need to be aware of changing traffic patterns, which is why so much regulation exists around this issue. The lack of proper work zone setup can also endanger workers. If the speed limit isn’t clearly posted, or if an adequate barrier between workers and traffic isn’t established, tragedy could occur.

The personal injury attorneys at CFCL in Indianapolis want to help you get what you need to move forward in life with peace of mind. From fighting for you in court to helping you plan for every new challenge you may face, we’re your advocates. If you have been the victim of an accident in a work zone which was not properly set up and believe you have a case, contact us today for a free consultation.

Have you been injured in a motor vehicle accident? Cline Farrell Christie Lee & Bell has an experienced team of car accident attorneys who can help you explore your options.