Road work construction zones can pop up any time of year in Arizona. Crews work tirelessly to patch potholes, improve road structures and otherwise ensure that everyone has safe roads. Unfortunately, road work construction zones don’t just make driving safer.

Road work zones also contribute dramatically to the number of crashes that occur. In 2017, the most recent year with statistics available from the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, roughly 94,000 collisions occurred because of road work. Understanding what creates risks in roadwork areas can help you say safer around construction sites.

Rubbernecking is one of the major issues at road work sites

When something unusual occurs on the road, people often want to get a good look. Although the phenomenon of rubbernecking is most closely associated with motor vehicle crashes, where people can’t just drive by without staring at the wreckage, the same habit causes problems on road construction sites.

People driving past active work zones may want to look at the machinery or see if they can identify someone they know on the work crew. People slowing down and looking off to the side instead of at the road in front of them is a form of distraction that can dramatically increase the risk of a crash with someone else nearby.

Merging traffic for closed lanes increases crash risk, too

When construction takes place on a major thoroughfare, it is common practice for the work crew to shut one or two lanes and try to leave at least one lane of traffic open so that they don’t have to actually close the road. Workers will place signs advising people to merge a half a mile or more back from the actual location of the work, but those signs often just inspire people to become more aggressive drivers.

While it is most effective for people to begin emerging immediately and to allow vehicles to merge into the open lane as frequently as necessary, some people refuse to let others merge, while others seemingly abuse the system by bypassing the slow traffic and shooting up the closed lane as far as they can.

These kinds of behaviors increase the risk of a crash and create hostility between drivers. When you encounter a work zone on the road, your best options usually include slowing down, paying close attention to signs, watching for workers or machinery and resisting the urge to ogle the actual construction site. If you get into a crash caused by a driver near a work zone, you may have the right to hold them accountable for the property damage and injuries they cause.