Spinal Column: Warmer weather, orange barrels signal road construction season

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Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

We are now several weeks into spring, the ground is beginning to thaw, and the spring and summer construction season is gearing up. You may have already begun to notice the accumulation of orange barrels lining Michigan’s roadways.

There are several construction projects scheduled in and around the 15th Senate District. For a map and description of projects in the area, please visit www.michigan.gov/mdot, select the “Travel” tab and click “Major Road Projects.” From there, you will find a PDF document of the 2016 road construction projects about halfway down the page.

Mi Drive, an interactive map put out by the Michigan Department of Transportation, displays current projects, accidents, and driving conditions in real time. Before scheduling any trips this spring or summer, you may want to use this tool to avoid any unwanted holdups. Mi Drive can be found at www.michigan.gov/drive.

It is important to remember during this time of year to drive safely through construction zones. Driving cautiously and carefully paying attention are critically important to individuals on both sides of the barrels.

Your risk of becoming involved in an accident when driving in a construction zone is increased due to many factors — the lanes often are narrower, traffic patterns may be different than usual, and construction vehicles and workers are continuously entering and exiting the roadway. All this activity can be a distraction.

Thousands of people across the United States die each year from traffic accidents in construction zones, and hundreds of thousands more are injured. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, rear-end accidents are the most common type of accidents in construction zones. This is largely due to the fluctuating speeds, or lower-than-usual speeds in the area.

Remember to remain vigilant and watch for warning signs to alert you as to what may lie ahead. This is not only for your safety but for the safety of others as well. Equally important is to remain distraction free while driving, specifically in areas where road work is underway.

I think we are all ready to see our roads improve. For this to happen, those who build and maintain the roads must be allowed to safely do their jobs. Next time you’re traveling on a highway or city street under construction, remember: Maintain awareness, drive slowly and get yourself and your family home safely. People working on the roads are our neighbors and friends, so please drive carefully when approaching construction areas.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.