There are hazards in a roadway work zone that pose a potential threat to both drivers and construction workers. Road crews hope to minimize the potential risk and help keep traffic moving as smoothly as possible by posting signs that give direction to passing motorists. For everyone’s safety, it is important to follow the signs as closely as you can. In order to do this, you need to understand what they mean.
Temporary Speed Limits
Due to the close proximity of equipment and construction workers to moving traffic, it is often necessary to temporarily reduce the speed limit in a work zone. Where there is a variable speed limit, there will often be a sign posting the temporary condition. Pay careful attention to this sign and adjust your speed accordingly. Fines for speeding in construction zones are often significantly high.
Different colors are used to let you know at a glance what different road signs mean. The signs that you are most likely to see in a work zone are likely to be orange, white, yellow, or red. Here is an explanation of what these colors mean:
- Orange: The color orange is used specifically in construction zones. An orange sign informs you that the information you are receiving pertains particularly to the roadwork that is going on.
- White: A white sign is a regulatory sign. It informs you of the rules that apply to this particular area of road. Ordinarily, speed limit signs are white. In a construction zone, however, you are just as likely to see orange signs providing the speed limit as white ones.
- Yellow: Like orange, a yellow sign indicates caution. However, while orange signs provide warnings specific to a construction zone, yellow signs provide more general cautions.
- Red: When you see a red traffic sign, it almost always tells you to stop. You may see red stop signs, sometimes in the hands of flaggers indicating that you should stop and wait for a temporary obstruction to clear. When road work redirects traffic in an unusual way, you may also see a red “Yield” sign asking you to give way to oncoming traffic when merging or a red “Do Not Enter” or “Wrong Way” sign indicating that you may be in danger of straying into the construction area itself or the path of oncoming traffic.
Where there seems to be a discrepancy between the instructions you receive from an orange sign in a construction zone and a sign of another color, it is usually safest to observe the instructions on the orange sign.
Some road construction signs use words, while others use pictures and symbols. It may be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the symbols you may encounter on road signs and what they mean before setting out in your car.