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Truck Topics

Highway Dangers To Remember

By Lee Kurtzmann
Posted Dec 13th 2001 3:00AM

road_issues707a.jpgIf you're like me, you tend to dismiss all the safety tips that come down to us from the media; you know, the ones about dressing warmly in cold weather and how you should drink plenty of liquids in hot weather.....

Because so many of these "tips" seem to be written for a person with a shoe-size IQ, we ignore these well-intentioned, but trivial words of wisdom. By doing that however, we sometimes miss the good ideas that are hidden in there.

We recently came upon some good driving tips about highway dangers that we can easily overlook because we see them so often. It's easy to take for granted these man-made hazards which actually demand heightened awareness.

We'll examine three of these dangers:

Work/Construction Zones
Accident Sites
Disabled Vehicles.

Work/Construction Zones

These areas usually have signs and barriers indicating work-in-progress, and reduction in speed is the rule. Cones, barrels, and temporary concrete barriers control traffic flow. All of these items should signal "danger" to the professional driver.

Problems in construction zones include narrow lanes, uneven road surfaces, potholes, unclear lane markings and cones/barrels/barricades that have fallen or been moved out of their intended place.

There is also the human factor. Besides the moving construction equipment, there are workers standing and walking around a work site. Any one of them may become distracted and inadvertently move outside the safety boundaries.

Another aspect of the human factor is the idiot driver; that's the one who's running hammer down to beat that line of traffic which has already merged into the remaining open lane(s), or the one who simply doesn't believe in reducing his/her speed in the work zones.

Accident Sites

Many times, one accident precipitates others. If there is an accident in your lane or on your side of a divided highway, you may be confronted with drivers ahead that slow significantly or slam on their brakes and stop.

The solution here is to always maintain the proper following distance so you can stop in time. An accident ahead may also put oil and fuel on the road as well as debris such as cargo or car parts.

To safely handle this type of situation, you must maintain a safe following distance and be on heightened alert. You need to see them early enough to avoid them without making sudden unsafe moves.

An accident in an oncoming lane or on the other side of a divided highway can also present a hazard. This is mainly because drivers in front of you may suddenly become voyeurs and, in so doing will either slow down or drift out of their lane.

Additionally, you may also be curious about the accident, especially if a truck is involved. This can create the situation where everything ahead looked o.k. when you scanned the accident, but when you look back to the road you realize that everyone has slowed.

You can deplete a margin of safety very quickly. Any accident may involve emergency vehicles, police cars and people running across the road or walking onto the road. You must be on the lookout for all of these.

Disabled Vehicles

Everyday you see them beside the roadway. They can present significant danger in at least two ways that come immediately to mind. First, the disabled vehicle may be very close to or may even be on the roadway.

This could be caused by a breakdown that kept the driver from clearing the road, or the shoulder being too narrow for the vehicle to get completely off of the road.

Whatever the reason, if the disabled vehicle itself presents a clearance problem, you must exercise extreme caution. Reduce speed to be sure that you are not forced to choose between hitting the disabled vehicle or moving into a lane that is not available for you.

A second hazard associated with the disabled vehicle is people. Disabled vehicles may have someone moving around the vicinity. Sometimes it is just the driver and sometimes it is a whole family.

No matter who the people are, they may be stepping into the roadway by accident. Keep watching the road ahead so you can see disabled vehicles well in advance of your coming up on them.

When you see one, slow down.

Exercise caution, evaluate the situation with regard to the position of the vehicle relative to the road and move to the left lane if the situation dictates it can be done safely. Always remember to watch out for people associated with the disabled vehicle.

Construction sites, accident sites and disabled vehicles. Three man-made road hazards that you see and drive by everyday. Don't let them become routine. They all pose dangers that demand your very best attention, caution and professional driving skills.      

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