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What Does a Construction Speed Zone Cost?

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Large view on the road rollers working on the new road construction site

What construction zone? I didn’t see any signs back there! This irate motorist was very definite expressing what she thought about the traffic ticket I was issuing her for speeding in a construction zone. I suggested that once we were done I would be happy to help her make a U-turn so that she could go back and check on the signs.

I knew that there was more than one large orange warning sign with flapping red flags in addition to the temporary speed limit sign leading to where I had stopped her. She accepted my offer and that was the last time I saw her. No doubt she saw them the second time past and decided not to dispute the ticket.

Welcome to the Cone Zone. This is a segment of highway where construction is taking place and hazards exist. It may be as obvious as people and machines on the roadway or more subtle such as uneven pavement, absence of reflective delineators or safety barriers that have been removed. The need for speed reduction may be valid even outside of working hours. It is not up to drivers to decide, when the signs are posted, you must obey.

If you miss something like the driver I issued the ticket to did, travelling at reduced speed will reduce the impact of a mistake.

Like you, when I want to get to my destination I don’t like to have to slow down either. I was thinking of this while monitoring traffic in a construction zone one afternoon and decided to find out just how much it would cost me to slow down here. I measured the length of the zone and got out my calculator. The difference between driving through the zone at the speed limit and at the 50 km/h reduced speed was 74 seconds.

How important was 74 seconds? I considered all the emergency calls that I had responded to and I could not come up with an instance where I thought that 74 seconds made a difference. The only situations that I thought seconds could be critical for would most likely involve ambulances and fire apparatus.

Nothing in my personal life would justify putting people in the construction zone at risk by my failure to slow down. To do otherwise can only be described as selfish.

The risk is very real. Between 2005 and 2015 223 workers suffered a lost time injury and 15 workers were killed in Cone Zone collisions according to the Work Zone Safety Alliance. ICBC does not report collision statistics for construction zones specifically, but I don’t doubt that there are collisions that don’t involve workers or road building vehicles.

Construction season will soon be underway and we’ll be called on to navigate the Cone Zone safely. It’s simple really; slow down, keep your eyes and ears on the road and show respect for roadside workers. Remember that the flag person’s directions must be followed, they are not a suggestion.

One last thought, plan ahead to minimize or avoid having your trip disrupted. The latest information regarding construction and other delays is available on the DriveBC web site.

Cst. Tim Schewe (Ret.) runs DriveSmartBC, a community web site about traffic safety in British Columbia. For 25 years he was an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, including five years on general duty, 20 in traffic and 10 as a collision analyst responsible of conducting technical investigations of collisions. He retired from policing in 2006 but continues to be active in traffic safety through the DriveSmartBC web site, teaching seminars and contributing content to newspapers and web sites.