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We’ve all been there. Running late to work, feeding and dressing ourselves at stoplights, driving like a maniac, and then encountering the dreaded construction zone, where a ticket can cost half of what you paid for your car (in my case, anyway).

Though orange signs, barrels, flags, and LED lights surround the area informing drivers to slow down and be careful, these instructions are all too often disregarded by the hurried or else impatient driver. The problem: this sort of negligence leads to death in road construction work zones every year.

In his April 2012 article for the Plain Dealer, Tom Breckenridge reported that more than 5,000 accidents occurred in construction areas in Ohio last year, and more than 1,300 people suffered injuries as a result. Seventeen of these injuries proved fatal.

Predictably, construction workers, the contractors who write their checks, and politicians throughout the country are all calling for improved safety measures. But ultimately the true responsibility for the elimination of these accidents rests upon each driver if these ugly statistics are to decrease in the future.

This being road construction season, it is more important than ever for drivers to operate their vehicles safely while on the road (particularly on the highway), and here are some tips for doing so:

  • Put the phone down. Resist the urge to send your current crush love notes riddled with silly emoticons while flying down the highway at 70 mph. He or she will still be there when your car comes to a stop, and anyone who knows anything about love knows that making him or her wait for your response will only increase the anticipation and satisfaction upon receipt of whatever goopy sentiment you send.
  • Be vigilant. A single moment of carelessness in a work zone can cause anything from the sickening sound of a plastic barrel scrawling orange streaks across your car’s paintjob to a fatal crash.
  • Slow down! If you’re already running late, what difference will the extra minute it takes to safely travel through a construction zone make? In your boss’ eyes or your girlfriend’s eyes, late is late.
  • Don’t ride the bumper of the car ahead of you. Quite often, hurried drivers ride much too closely to the back end of the car in front of them. This is problematic for two reasons:
  1. First and foremost, Ohio’s assured clear distance law states that you have to be able to stop your car without hitting the car in front of you. Otherwise, you will probably be held accountable for any bodily injury or property damage you cause.
  2. There’s always the possibility that riding someone's tail will anger him or her enough to brake check you. (Urban Dictionary definition: While driving, hitting your brakes really hard to scare the crap out of the jerk driving two inches from your rear bumper.)
  • Show some compassion. Whatever hurry you are in should never be more important than the safety of those around you.

As I have said before, summer is a time that is both fun and dangerous. The great weather and the excitement of a summer day or night can lead to overly aggressive driving, but aside from shaving a few minutes off of your ETA, this type of behavior is not beneficial to anyone. Slow down, leave the phone in your pocket or purse, and drive safely so you can take in the scenery without ending up face-down in a ditch. The overall safety of all those on the road is more important than trying to impress the boss with your promptness or texting sweet nothings to your lady friend.

Safe travels.

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