Few traffic signs make a driver groan in dread and frustration like the one that says, "road construction ahead." Almost any long-distance trip should be planned with the possibility of construction zone delays in mind. They are almost impossible to avoid. So how does a savvy driver deal with the construction zone, short of driving to Timbuktu to get around it?
The first guideline is to stay calm and to obey the speed limits. These are often reduced in a construction zone for a good reason, and a good driver should pay attention to them. In many states, speeding fines are doubled in a construction zone, so going too fast could be a very expensive mistake. Keeping one's composure is the first and best action a driver can take. The driver should resign himself to the fact that he may be in the construction zone for a while and be as patient as possible.
Pay attention to the road surface in a construction zone. Watch for uneven pavement, graveled sections, sudden bumps and "drop-offs," where the pavement drops a few inches. In such areas, cars ahead may brake suddenly to accommodate the pavement, so keep a safe following distance behind the car in front. Tailgating is a bad idea any time, but especially in a congested construction zone.
Also watch for lane switches in a construction zone. There are usually warning signs, but the switch can still catch a driver unaware. Accidents happen when the road zigs and the driver zags – usually through inattention. Be ready to merge into a single lane of traffic as soon as the merge sign appears. Don’t wait to run out of road before merging.
Turn off cell phones, for two reasons. First, they can be troublesome in blasting zones. There will usually be a sign warning drivers to turn off phones and two-way radios. Second, the use of cell phones while driving increases one's chances of being in an accident, due to driver inattention. A driver needs all her wits about her while in a construction zone and does not need the distraction of a cell phone.
If the day is warm and the traffic slow or stopped, keep an eye on the car's thermostat. If it starts creeping up, turn off the air conditioner and roll down the windows. This will help prevent the car from overheating. In a breakdown, the driver should attempt to move the car out of the lane of traffic, if at all possible.
Obey the flag man, if one is working. Don't try to go past, hoping to get through before everyone else. This causes nasty accidents. The flag man is working for a reason, and drivers should respect this.
As obvious as it sounds, drivers should watch out for workers in a construction zone. They may step out from behind trucks or other machinery close to the road. Be careful of them.
Using common sense and courtesy will carry a driver through most situations. Common sense dictates that drivers should slow down, be alert for poor road conditions and maintain a safe following distance in a construction zone. Courtesy demands that drivers keep their horns quiet and their middle fingers to themselves in these situations and allow other drivers to merge in front of them or to change lanes, if necessary.
Allowing plenty of time for travel and maintaining a sense of humor will also help. As annoying as it is, the construction zone is a fact of the driving experience.