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Don't Ignore Construction Zones on Your Summer Virginia Road Trip

Now that Memorial Day is past, summer vacations by car or van are in full swing in Virginia. Whether your destination is the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Eastern Shore or Colonial Williamsburg, it's a guarantee you will hit road construction in the commonwealth.

You can plan around major construction projects by checking the Virginia Department of Transportation Travel Center online. But no matter how well you plan, on your trip you will run into orange cones and detour signs. The important thing is to stay safe in those work zones, and to keep workers and others using the road from harm.

In an April news release in recognition of National Work Zone Awareness Week, VDOT stated that in 2011 Virginia had almost 3,500 motor-vehicle accidents in highway work zones, causing about 1,800 injuries and 11 fatalities. Citing the American Traffic Safety Services Association, VDOT shared further that about one-quarter of work-zone crashes are rear-end impacts.

In addition, a major part of driving safely and avoiding a car accident in a construction zone is to minimize distractions, especially by putting down your cell phone. More than 40 percent of drivers in work zones use mobile phones, according to estimates of more than 400 law-enforcement officers surveyed by the "Orange Cones No Phones" project in Northern Virginia. Specifically, the officers felt that texting was by far the most dangerous driver behavior in construction zones.

It's easy to see why cellular phones are so dangerous during driving. The driver has to take at least one hand off the wheel and his or her eyes off the road, as well as listening to the speaker on the phone rather than traffic warning sounds like horns. Finally, mental concentration is no longer 100 percent on negotiating the often tricky detours, lane changes and reduced speeds of work zones.

Unfortunately, the victims of distracted driving in road construction zones are those that end up getting hit by distracted drivers' cars - innocent construction workers, pedestrians and bikers, and drivers and passengers in other cars.

Source:, "Despite warnings, Va. Drivers distracted in construction zones" Adam Tuss, April 26, 2012

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