The Car Coach: Road construction
It's that time of year again. The season of more orange pylons, construction workers, big equipment and narrowing and shifted lanes. Our Car Coach, Lauren Fix, tells us how to avoid it.
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It's that time of year again. The season of more orange pylons, construction workers, big equipment and narrowing and shifted lanes. During your daily drive and vacation travel, there are many reasons to slow down, but construction is the biggest delay. Here are tips to maneuver through construction zones and reduce your stress.
In order to dodge construction slowdowns: Plan ahead and know where planned construction will occur. Most states have websites and telephone hotlines for construction information, which they update frequently. Among these, the Federal Highway Administration and Rand McNally are good sources for construction information. If you're an AAA member, the group's TripTiks® include current construction information.
Avoid traveling during peak times. In most places, peak weekend travel times are between 1 and 8 p.m. on Fridays and Sundays. Beware that some construction projects open additional lanes for the evening rush hour and then block them off again after 8 p.m., causing a secondary congestion problem for through traffic.
Heed the advance warnings. On holiday weekends or during the summer travel season, miles ahead of work zones, crews will sometimes position electronic message-board signs with alerts on how to avoid upcoming construction backups. Watch for these, and use the advice for alternate routes. They might seem to take you out of the way, but they're probably going to save time in the end.
If you find yourself driving into a construction zone- merge early! Think about it for a moment: that single lane limits the number of cars that can get through a single-lane construction zone. The best policy is to safely merge at least a quarter mile before the lanes merge, to allow for people who aren't paying attention and help prevent accidents at the merge point.
Slow down to save lives. While driving through a construction zone you may be inches away from defenseless workers who could possibly misstep into the path of your vehicle. Also look out for loose gravel, tools, or raw materials in the highway. Beware that in most states, fines and penalties are doubled in construction zones.
Don't follow too closely. People tend to follow more closely in construction zones, but that won't really get you there any faster. In a construction zone, you should leave extra space.
Minimize your distractions. Most likely, traffic will be slowed, speeds will be irregular, lanes may be unusually narrow, and there might not be a shoulder to escape to if you can't brake in time for the vehicle ahead. In other words, there's no time for distractions.
Take the scenic route. What better way to enjoy small-town America? Although it may take you longer, you'll feel less bored, cranky, and stressed.