Car Accidents in Connecticut Construction Zones: Causes and Remedies

Backed up traffic. Flashing lights. Narrow, winding lanes and confusing signage. Navigating a construction zone can be a challenge even for the most experienced drivers.

Car accidents in construction zones are all too common in Connecticut and throughout the United States. But, by knowing more about the threats they are likely to face, the steps drivers can take to help protect themselves and how to address the fallout after an accident, motorists can be prepared for whatever dangerous construction zones throw in their way.

The Hazards of Construction Zones

According to federal government data, almost 600 people lost their lives in road construction zones in 2010, the most recent year for which full data is available. Some of those killed were construction workers, but nearly 90 percent were drivers or their passengers who were simply passing through a construction zone. An additional 35,000 people suffered injuries resulting from car accidents in construction zones.

So what makes road construction so dangerous for motorists? Experts point to a variety of factors, including:

  • Inadequate signage
  • Poor lighting
  • Rough highway
  • Drivers who ignore or fail to notice signs or flaggers telling them to slow down
  • Confusion about proper merging procedures as lanes contract

Sometimes, danger is a matter of construction crews not adequately preparing a site for traffic before beginning work. Often, however, it stems merely from other drivers who are not properly prepared to make their way safely through a construction zone.

Safety Tips for Construction Zone Driving From the Connecticut DOT

According to the Connecticut Department of Transportation, the number of construction zone injuries and fatalities is not predicted to go anywhere but up. However, the agency has several recommendations that can help keep you safe when you are traveling through a construction zone.

First of all, in a construction zone, you need to be specially tuned-in to your senses. Watch, look and listen. You may have to reduce your speed rapidly if the car in front of you slams on the brakes. Or, a sign or flagger may appear unexpectedly with special instructions (you should of course do the smart thing and always follow the directions of official signs and construction crews).

Traffic patterns are different in construction zones, a fact of which drivers need to be aware. You should increase your following distance to allow extra time to react to all the possible changes, like lane shifts or alternative lane closures.

Specialized driving techniques are recommended in certain situations in construction zones. If traffic is light and speeds remain relatively high, you should merge early. However, if traffic slows down and gaps between cars close, you should merge later using the "zipper" method.

Whenever you see construction zone signage, you should be on high alert, even when you suspect workers may not be present. At night, for instance, even if work is not underway, drivers are often slower to react to changing roadway conditions associated with a construction zone. And, sometimes the presence of workers is not apparent immediately after a posted warning sign, such as when they have moved further down the highway conducting line painting, road patching or other mobile work.

Keeping your cool, and therefore protecting your safety, can be a matter of time. Expect delays, and leave early to reach your destination. Drivers who are in a hurry tend to make mistakes.

What to Do If You Have Been In a Construction Zone Car Accident

If you have been in a car accident, it can be difficult to know what to do next. If you or a loved one has been injured, it is likely you are focused on recovery, and cannot devote your full attention to matters like insurance claims and liability concerns.

To an extent, you should not be focusing on such things - at least until you have retained a personal injury attorney. Saying the wrong thing to another driver's insurance company, for example, could be extremely damaging to your ultimate right to monetary recovery. If anyone other than the police or your own insurer asks you about the accident, you should politely but firmly decline to talk about it until you have had the chance to consult with an attorney. Even with law enforcement authorities or your own insurer, limit yourself to a brief, factual description.

If you do a good job of safeguarding your rights in the wake of an accident, you may have several avenues to pursue for compensation. If another driver caused or contributed to the accident, you may be able to sue him or her; usually, this means the other driver's insurer will pay any resulting damages. If the at-fault driver was operating a commercial vehicle, you may be able to hold the driver's employer responsible for the accident.

Additionally, with some construction zone accidents, bad practices by the work crew (faulty signage, machinery left in the road, poor lane design, etc.) play a role in causing injury. When this is the case, you may be able to recover compensation from the government entity or third party contractor that employs the construction workers.

There is no doubt that it can be a jungle out there in Connecticut construction zones. But, when you cover all your bases and get the help of an experienced attorney in pursuing your claim, you will have the best chances at the full and fair monetary recovery you deserve.