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Work Zones Are More Dangerous in Winter: 9 Tips to Drive Through Them Safely

Jason Reese


  • Each year in Indiana, highway workers and motorists are killed or seriously injured in crashes that happen in work zones.
  • Work zones are typically marked with orange cones or barrels, concrete barriers, traffic control devices, electronic or printed signage, or moving vehicles with flashers, such as a snow plow.
  • Road fatalities can happen in any work zone, in any season. In the winter, a work zone can look like the area on the road where a snow plow or salt truck is clearing a safe path for drivers.
  • Speeding and aggressive driving is a major cause of work zone crashes.
  • It is everyone’s responsibility to use caution and common sense when driving through winter work zones.
  • The consequences for injuring or killing someone in a work zone are especially serious. Careless drivers may face thousands of dollars in fines and years in prison if they injure someone in a work zone.

Winter Travel Through Work Zones Can Be Dangerous

Many individuals are at risk of danger every day at work zone sites across Indiana, especially during the winter months. During this time, some workers are spending 8-10 hours days in zones clearing snow and spreading ice-melt so drivers can move along safely. Work zones are typically marked with orange cones or barrels, concrete barriers, traffic control devices, electronic or printed signage or moving vehicles with flashers, such as snowplows.

It is everyone’s responsibility to use caution and common sense when driving through winter work zones. The travel can be frustrating at times because it may take more time and expenses, but it is important to acknowledge that it is actually the actions of most drivers that cause traffic patterns to slow in work zones. Nationally, four out of five people killed in work zones are drivers and passengers – NOT workers.

The most common causes of a collision in a work zones are drivers who are speeding or those who are not paying attention. Here are several other main causes of work zone crashes.

  1. Improper lane change
  2. Failure to yield right-of-way
  3. Following too closely
  4. Ran over object in roadway
  5. Ran off roadway
  6. Unsafe lane movement

Although, fatal work zone crashes occur most often in summer, the winter months can bring their own set of work zone driving risks. Winter weather can slow traffic patterns and create congestion in poor weather conditions, all making safe driving through construction or work zones more difficult.

Tips for Safe Winter Driving in Work Zones

The INDOT has helped pass the Indiana Work Zone Safety Law. The law has helped create heavy penalties for driver inattentiveness and infractions in highway work zones. For example, drivers who choose to speed in a work zone will receive a $300 fine on the first offense. The fine increases to $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a third offense within three years. Reckless and aggressive drivers traveling through work zones face fines up to $5,000. And those drivers who injure or kill a highway worker may end up paying a $10,000 fine and serving up to six years behind bars.

Drivers shouldn’t risk the chance associated with breaking the law and creating an accident scene, especially within a work zone in the winter. Drivers should also review these safe-driving tips from the INDOT.

  1. Be patient and stay calm. Remember that the road crews are working to make the road better for you!
  2. Expect delays and allow extra travel time to travel through work zones.
  3. Distracted driving has become a crisis on all roadways, leaving driver inattention a leading cause of all highway crashes. Don’t text or talk on the phone and avoid taking your hands off the wheel.
  4. Keep a safe distance on all sides of your vehicles and maintain a safe following distance. Rear-end collisions are the most common type of work zone crash, especially during the winter months when black ice and slush are more prevalent.
  5. Pay attention to the construction signage. These signs are carefully selected to give drivers accurate information and important warnings.
  6. Respect the flaggers and obey their guidance. Be patient when driving through work sites with flagger control.
  7. Respect the posted speed limits and merge as soon and as safely possible as this will allow traffic to flow smoothly. Keep in mind, driving 45 MPH instead of 55 MPH through a 5-mile work zone will only add 1.2 minutes to your trip. Speeding and aggressive driving is a major cause of work zone crashes.
  8. Select alternate routes if possible to avoid the work zone completely.
  9. Take extra care to pay attention and expect the unexpected. Work Zone configurations can change without notice.

Watch Out for Indiana’s Snow Plows

For a snow plow to effectively clear the road, the massive vehicle must travel much slower than the posted speeds. This can slow traffic patterns and create havoc for the self-acclaimed courteous driver. When a driver shares the road with a snow plow, they are in a work zone and should expect to drive slower and stay more alert than normal and remember these tips:

  • Be patient, and remember snow plows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
  • Stay back at least 10 car lengths between your vehicle and a plow.
  • Stay alert for snow plows that turn or exit frequently and often with little warning.
  • Snow plows typically move at slower speeds. Slow down.

Here are a few tips for safely sharing the road with a snow plow that has its flashing lights on and is showing you.

  • Be seen and protect yourself by turning on your headlights (even during the day) and always wear your seat belt.
  • Turn off your cruise control and watch for areas of congestion.
  • When you first see a snow plow, begin to slow down. Stay behind the snowplow and aim for a space at least 10 car lengths between your vehicle and a plow. The road behind a snow plow is safer to drive on.
  • Snow plows turn and exit frequently, and often with little warning. Allow snow plow drivers the time they need.
  • Never drive into a snow cloud or drive into an area of low visibility.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

For your own safety, and for the safety of the workers and their families, please adhere to the lower speed limits, and stay alert for lane shifts, moving equipment, and workers. Above all, please put down your cell phones and stay free from distractions.

Stay Safe and Connected with Us This Winter

During the winter driving season, we are all relying on one another to keep our community safe. Thanks for staying with us as we continue to write about winter driving topics and share tips for traveling during this time on our Facebook page.

If tragedy strikes and you or someone you love is injured in a winter related driving accident, please call the vehicular accident attorneys at Wagner Reese for a free consultation. We put decades of experience to work for you, and we won’t collect any fees unless your case is settled or won. Connect with us by submitting our online form and our attorneys will review your information. If you wish to speak directly with us, please call (888) 204-8440.


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