The deaths of a Newton Falls cou- ple earlier this month in a traffic accident at a construction zone on Interstate 76 in Jackson Township serve as a tragic reminder of the dangers that lurk in work areas on streets, highways and bridges.
As the summer road-construction season moves into full throttle this week, it’s prime time to take stock of and take heed of safe- driving strategies to maneuver your way through such dangerous and potentially deadly obstacles.
It was just two weeks ago when Dolores Stoner, 83, and her husband, Kenneth R. Stoner, 87, of Newton Falls were in the back seat of a car driven by their son. When their son stopped for a construction zone at milepost 59, another vehicle slammed the Stoners’ car from behind, killing the two octogenarians and longtime active members of the Falls community.
Data on work-zone crashes
Unfortunately, such tragedies are not as rare as one may think. According to the Federal Highway Transportation Administration, 87,606 work-zone crashes occurred in the United States in 2010, resulting in 576 fatalities.
Clearly, most construction-zone mishaps do not result in death, and the number of work-zone fatalities has dropped by 20 percent since 2008, according to the FHTA.
But that’s little consolation to the survivors of the Stoner victims and others who have lost loved ones in or near road-improvement zones. It’s particularly burdensome when they realize their grief, their anguish and their loss all may have been prevented.
The Ohio Department of Transportation and a host of local and county agencies have begun dozens of road repaving, road improvement and bridge replacement projects that will create potential bottlenecks throughout the summer. As they do, officials are rightly reinforcing the lifesaving lessons of smart, defensive driving through the slew of barriers, impediments, detours and obstructions that typically characterize the summer-driving experience.
Remember the three S’S
In Missouri, for example, that state’s Department of Transportation has mounted a campaign on driving in work zones that it labels the “Three S’s” — speed, space and stress. Not only is that catchphrase a clever alliteration, it is also a shorthand strategy for surviving even the longest and most irritating stretch of road-work headaches. According to the MDOT:
Manage your speed: Slow down and maintain a consistent speed with the traffic flow. Do not resume normal speed until you see roadway signs indicating it is safe to do so.
Manage your space: Leave adequate braking room between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. When stopped in traffic, be able to see the bottom of the tires of the vehicle in front of you.
Manage your stress. Keep your cool. Calm down, and don’t rush. Check traffic websites before making trips to prepare for construction slowdowns.
But like it or not, slowdowns and bottlenecks at highway work zones are inevitable rites of summer. The short-term pain of lower speeds and higher levels of caution will pay off in long-term gains of better roadways. Operating your vehicle attentively and defensively will go a long way toward ensuring smooth passage through summer driving.