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Looking at Driver Safety in Construction Zones during Las Vegas Road Maintenance Initiative

Freeway construction

During the first week of February a federal grant was announced that would help expand technological advancements on Las Vegas freeways. These improvements can help improve traffic safety in Southern Nevada. Additionally, it is important to become aware of precautions to take when driving through construction zones.

Technology Maintenance

On February 3, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced that the Las Vegas area transportation agencies will receive a six-million-dollar federal grant to help expand safety technologies on local freeways. This maintenance will occur on U.S Highway 95 near the Spaghetti Bowl downtown and Summerlin Parkway. This five-mile area is used by nearly 230,000 motor vehicles daily, and installation of these technologies can make daily commutes safer for them.

The first goal of this project is to increase the number of traffic management signs along Interstate 15. These include overhead digital warning signs to notify motorists of accidents, speed reduction and lane closure. These signs give prior warning, thus reducing sudden braking or lane switching in high-traffic areas.

In addition to these signs, occupancy detection sensors will be added to certain lanes. This will help record traffic data such as congestion, emissions, etc. Wrong-way sensor will also be added on ramps to notify drivers if they enter the wrong way. Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a major advocate for this grant, stated “This grant will fund emerging technologies on freeways in Las Vegas to improve traffic management, prevent car accidents, and inform first responders of incidents as quickly as possible.” This project will occur within a four-year time frame, and the Nevada Department of Transportation stated that meetings regarding start-dates will occur later in the month. [1]

Understanding Driver Safety in Construction Zones

While construction may not begin immediately, it is still important for Nevadans to be cautious and aware about driving in construction zones. The Federal Highway Administration states that nearly eight-hundred people lose their lives in construction zone accidents yearly. In Nevada, there were eight fatal crashes in 2019, and one involving a pedestrian. [2] These areas can be somewhat slow and congested, however taking these simple steps can help reduce a chance of collision:

  • Expect the Unexpected: Look out for signs, markers, etc., because speed limits may be different and certain lanes may be closed. Expect other drivers to make sudden changes or brake frequently.
  • Look out for Flaggers and Comply: Be aware of flaggers on the road guiding traffic. It is important to comply to the directions of these flaggers and they do have the same authority as a regulatory sign.
  • Drive Defensively: The most common type of crash in construction zones are rear end crashes. Driving defensively allows you, as the driver, time to react to sudden events. This also saves lives, and reduces the chance of colliding with a construction worker or pedestrian in the area.
  • Take Time with Lane Changes: Put on your turn signal at least three seconds before starting a lane change and use at least seven seconds to complete the lane change. Ensure you use your rearview mirrors while doing so. Changing lanes like this reduces backup on roads and also reduces the need to brake heavily.
  • Check for “End of Work-Zone” Signs: Just because a work zone looks empty, does not mean it is safe to drive at full speed. Drive at the reduced speed until you are completely sure you can do so.
  • Plan Ahead: If you know you are passing through a construction zone, expect delays. Either plan out a detour or leave at least ten minutes early to reduce impatient driving. If traveling, you can check highway closures on Federal Highway Administration’s website to help plan ahead. [3]

In conclusion, while new technologies being added to Southern Nevada roads is exciting, construction can be distracting and dangerous for many Nevadans. Following simple precautions can make construction zones safe for drivers, pedestrians, and workers, and allow for efficient passing of traffic.

[1] https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/traffic/high-tech-highways-6m-grant-to-expand-new-technology-along-us-95-2272670/

[2] www.workzonesafety.org

[3]https://schneiderjobs.com/blog/tips-for-driving-safely-road-construction-zones

Image Credit: Joe Mabel

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