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Use caution when driving in construction zones

May 11, 2005 - Drivers are conditioned to respond to colors.

Red brake lights, traffic lights and oc-tagons tell drivers to stop. Yellow flashing lights and road signs caution drivers of conditions ahead. And everyone knows what green means.

However, many drivers need to be re-minded of the fourth, and possibly the most important, color they'll encounter on the road: construction orange.

Spring and summer months promise construction zones along America's highways, byways, side streets and main drags. While beneficial in the long run, roadway construction can be inconvenient and quite dangerous unless drivers remember a few basic guidelines.

Following are some tips to help ensure safe driving no matter how much orange you see:

Follow the signs — Signs posted in work zones provide important information designed to protect motorists and construction crews. Construction signs indicate everything from traffic lane changes to speed limit reductions. Remember, a construction zone speed limit applies regardless of the presence of workers and fines are doubled.

Plan Ahead-When making travel plans, take time to research where construction zones will be and use an alternate route if possible. Construction zones can cause delays, so give yourself extra time if you know you have to drive through a work zone. Maintain adequate fuel to ensure you don't run out of gas, and bring drinks and snacks to keep you and your passengers satisfied as well.

Be alert — Not everyone is well versed in construction zone driving etiquette, so pay extra attention to your surroundings while in these areas. Continuously scan the roadway for rubberneck drivers, moving equipment, vehicles and workers. For increased concentration, avoid distractions such as eating and talking on a cell phone.

Remain calm — Never allow speeding and impatient drivers to modify the way you drive. Keeping cool in heavy slowdowns will make your drive safer and help keep traffic flowing. Be aware of tailgaters and motorists creating their own lane on the shoulder, but calmly focus on your driving, always leaving yourself enough space between you and the vehicles around you.

Give trucks room — Because of the length and weight of trucks, they need more room to stop or change lanes, especially in the narrow lanes construction zones often render. If a truck has its turn signal on, assist the driver by moving over or slowing down. While you should in-crease following distance for all vehicles when driving through a construction zone, remember trucks need nearly twice the time and room to stop as cars.

The color orange on the road means construction zones — enter these zones using extra concentration, caution and common sense.

As always, think safety first.

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