Few things can raise your blood pressure like having traffic go from a steady flow to a complete standstill due to road construction. It is only after the roadwork is completed that we can relax and enjoy the comforts of a newly paved road. Road construction work is vital to the continued safety of our roadways; yet, road construction defects can be the cause of serious and often deadly accidents. Drivers should be cautious when driving through construction zones and on newly repaved roads.
The dangers from road construction begin when the construction begins and continue for years after the road is completed if not done properly. Road construction companies are required to take safety measures while construction is ongoing. A flagman and a pilot car are familiar examples. When new paving has been done, road construction crews are also required to paint the lines before leaving the jobsite for the day so travelers at night can be protected. Unfortunately, this is not always done correctly. The travelling public relies on striping to ensure safe driving, especially on curves and areas with turn lanes.
Construction crews are also required to build up the shoulder of the roadway each day after completing paving. This is also not always done. It is not uncommon for a person’s tire to briefly leave the roadway and go onto the shoulder when travelling on a two lane highway. It happens so often we sometimes don’t even notice. However, when the shoulder has been cleared off for paving and new asphalt has been poured, a large drop off can occur between the roadway and the shoulder, making recovering from veering slightly off the road extremely difficult. Many single vehicle accidents have happened along two lane highways at night because a car has gotten slightly off the road and was unable to recover because the shoulder drop off was not built back up after construction.
Once construction is complete, people are often relieved and feel as though they can go faster on a newly repaved road than they could on the older, bumpy surface. However, caution should continue to be used on newly repaved roads even after construction is complete, especially on shoulders, around curves and during rainy weather.
Shoulder issues after construction are similar to problems during construction. Standards require the shoulder to be dressed in such a way that cars should be able to reasonably recover if they veer off the road. Loose gravel, uncompacted dirt, and low shoulders can be an ongoing hazard even after the road crews leave if the shoulders are not properly dressed.
Curves on a repaved road can be particularly dangerous because they require either the driver to slow the car down or the road to have superelevation to keep the car on the road during the turn. Superelevation is when the outside of the roadway in a turn is higher than the inside of the roadway of a turn to assist the car in making the turn. A severe example of this is seen on turns at racetracks where the outside edge is several feet higher than the inside edge of the track. Many turns are required to have superevelation to keep cars on the road. However, many older roads do not have superelevation on their turns, and it is cost-prohibitive to put superelevation in during repaving. This creates a dangerous condition because cars travelling at a higher rate of speed will not be able to stay on the roadway. One way to deal with this problem is to place signs advising of a turn and lowering the speed limit through the turn. Unfortunately, this is an important detail that can get overlooked by road construction companies. As a result, many single vehicle accidents have occurred in turns on newly repaved roads because people are travelling faster on the new pavement and do not know to slow down through the turn.
The same principle applies during wet conditions as well. Road construction companies are required to smooth out low spots and divert water off the roadway. Unfortunately this is not always done correctly, and because people naturally travel faster on newly resurfaced roads, the danger for hydroplaning is high on repaved roads.
At Jinks, Crow and Dickson, our lawyers have years of experience handling road construction defect cases that involve serious personal injury and even wrongful death. These accidents often involve only one car, and the police report will often overlook roadway conditions and cite driver inattention as the cause. We have experts that reconstruct the accidents and inspect the safety of the roadways to hold the road construction companies accountable for failing to follow standards for safety.
We urge all drivers to use extreme caution in road construction areas during construction and to remember that the dangers of road construction do not end when the construction crew leaves. Be especially vigilant at night during construction to watch for striping errors and to keep your car off the shoulder of the road. After construction is complete, the danger does not end. Keep a watch for soft shoulders, turns without signs, and standing water in the road. Repaved roads are much more pleasant to drive on, but that does not mean they are without hidden hazards.