Work Zone

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a work zone?
A. A work zone is a designated area on a street or highway where construction is taking place. Utility and roadway maintenance sites are also work zones.
Q. Why is work zone safety important?
A. Work zones can present an unfamiliar situation to drivers. Traffic pattern changes, closed or narrowed lanes and the presence of construction equipment and workers can cause challenges for motorists as they travel through work zones. Although safe and efficient work zones start with proper planning, design and implementation, drivers must watch for shifting conditions and exercise caution when they approach and travel through work zones.
Q. Who is responsible for work zone safety?
A. Everyone is responsible for making work zones work better and safer:
  • Project planners, designers, and workers have the responsibility to combine safety and mobility when planning, designing, and executing work zones.
  • Drivers, bikers, motorcyclists and pedestrians have the responsibility to always be alert, obey traffic laws and signs, and pay attention to their surroundings when approaching and traveling through a work zone. Properly securing pets in a vehicle prevents driver distraction and harm to the animal.
  • Passengers should act responsibly, and avoid distracting the driver.
  • Law enforcement and emergency responders have the responsibility of securing crash locations and enforcing traffic laws.
  • Local communities and state and local governments need to allocate funding for safe roads and increase public awareness about work zone safety.
  • Police and courts have the responsibility of enforcing traffic and work zone laws.
Q. How does driver behavior affect work zone safety?
A. The vast majority of work zone fatalities are motorists and their occupants. About 10-15 percent of fatalities are workers and other non-motorized users, such as pedestrians and bicyclists.
The driver plays a key role in making work zones safer for everyone, especially themselves.
Driver-related factors that affect work zone crashes include speeding, distractions (such as cellphones, texting, radios and too many passengers), inattentive driving and aggressive driving. The main type of work zone crash is a rear-end collision, and adequate following distance is important in avoiding such crashes.
When motorists are alert, obey traffic signs, maintain the posted speed limit and pay attention to traffic patterns, everyone's safety is enhanced.
Q. How should I react in a work zone?
A. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Construction activity very close to a road involving workers and equipment can be very distracting. Be prepared to take action quickly, and expect the unexpected. Be patient and avoid passing other vehicles.
If you are merging into another lane, for example, try not to wait until the last minute. If a flagger stops you, be patient and realize the inconvenience is temporary.
Q. Why is "tailgating" extremely dangerous in a work zone?
A. Most rear-end crashes occur when vehicles follow too closely. They do not have enough room to stop. You need at least 2.5 seconds to react and one second for every 10 mph you are traveling. If you are traveling in a work zone at 55 mph, for example, you need at least eight seconds to stop.
Q. Why is speeding dangerous in a work zone?
A. Speed is the number one contributing factor in work zone crashes. The speed limit is often lowered because of potentially hazardous conditions in the work zone.
It takes 49 seconds longer to travel through a 2-mile work zone at 45 mph than at 65 mph hour. The potential benefits of speeding don't outweigh the risks.
Q. What is the penalty for speeding in a work zone?
A. Speeding in designated work zones in North Carolina can result in a penalty of $250, plus court costs.
Q. Why should you slow down when you don't see anyone working?
A. Physical hazards, such as traffic shifts or lane reductions, might be present. Obey the posted speed limit.
Q. What if you cause a fatal or serious injury in a work zone?
A. In North Carolina, if you injure someone in a crash (including crashes in work zones), you are responsible for a person's injuries and any traffic violations that are issued as a result of your involvement in the crash.
If there is a fatality as a result of the crash (including crashes in work zones), you could be charged with vehicular manslaughter. Local district attorneys review each case based on the circumstances and make the decisions whether to bring charges against the driver.

Work Zone Driving Tips

More Information

Even though workers might not be present in work zones, motorists should still expect narrowed or closed lanes, traffic shifts and reduced speed limits as well as other conditions that might affect normal travel.

  • Stay alert: Dedicate your full attention to the roadway.
  • Pay close attention: Signs and work zone flaggers save lives.
  • Watch out for road debris.
  • Turn on your headlights: Workers and other motorists must see you.
  • Don't tailgate.
  • Don't speed: Note the posted speed limits in and around a work zone.
  • Keep up with the traffic flow.
  • Don't change lanes in a work zone.
  • Minimize distractions: Avoid changing radio stations and using mobile phones while driving a work zone.
  • Expect the unexpected: Keep an eye out for workers and their equipment.
  • Be patient : and obey posted speed limits.: Remember, the work zone crew members are working to improve your future ride. (The penalty for speeding through a marked work zone is $250.)
  • Watch out for road debris.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Use alternate routes, when possible, to avoid traffic congestion.
  • Leave early to get a head start on your drive and travel at non-peak times.

For Trucking Professionals

Under Construction: Trucking in the Work Zone

Trucking Resources

North Carolina’s highways are the workplace of the professional trucking industry. These professionals travel through work zones on a daily basis and regularly encounter the various hazards associated with a work zone. The N.C. Department of Transportation, in partnership with Carolinas Associated General Contractors and the North Carolina Trucking Association, has produced an educational video specifically for professional truck drivers.

Filmed in several North Carolina work zones and featuring real-life truck drivers, state troopers and an NCDOT engineer, Under Construction: Trucking in the Work Zone illustrates how professional truck drivers can make a difference by paying attention and driving the speed limit.