Roadworks can slow down your journey, cause major disruption and bring havoc to your day. With 6,590 traffic incidents reported on UK roads between 2016 and 2020, navigating the maze of roadworks on our highways has never been more important. IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving and Riding Standards, Richard Gladman, has some top tips to help make navigating them a little bit easier.
On the motorway
Motorway roadworks are one of the most common challenges we encounter. The reduced speed limit is there for your protection, as lanes are often narrower. Remember, too, that the separation gap on a fast-flowing road can't be ignored because the traffic is bunching up: at 50mph the gap should be at least 44 metres, or about 10 car lengths. If the speed limit is reducing in front of you, plan early and show your brake lights if the following traffic does not seem to be slowing.
Neighbouring narrow lanes
In a narrow lane, the last place you want to be is alongside an articulated vehicle. Not only are you potentially in a blind spot, but any curve in the road could mean its course changes and it could move into your lane. If you are already at the speed limit, slow down to create a space alongside - this will allow you to create a safety gap, and then you can match your speed to maintain it.
Breakdowns and incidents
Should you breakdown in roadworks the safest place to be is most likely in your car. Make sure you've activated your hazard lights and call for help by dialling 999. Major roadworks often have dedicated numbers for breakdown help, so call those if possible. If possible go left andif you can get out of the vehicle safely, leave the hazard lights on and don't lock it, then get to an area of safety behind the barrier and wait for help to arrive.
On a country road, be particularly alert when passing road works to avoid incidents or injury to those working on the road. Workers will have their concentration elsewhere and may inadvertently step out of their work area. They may be wearing ear defenders or operating loud machinery, so a horn note may be ineffective. Keep your speed low and always be prepared to stop.
When approaching roadworks with temporary traffic lights on red, slow the traffic behind you with early brake lights. If there’s no traffic behind, keep the brake lights on until there is a car behind you. If the obstruction is just out of a bend, position yourself to seen before the bend and bridge the gap (if you’re the first vehicle, the light may not change until you activate their sensors, so this may not be possible).
Roadworks aren’t always protected by traffic lights or signs. In which case, the courteous thing to do is give way if the obstruction is on your side of the road. If you can time your arrival well, you can expect some co-operation from oncoming traffic if you’re well into the gap before they arrive. If there’s a likelihood of workers or machinery reducing the gap, try not to share it with oncoming traffic.
Richard Gladman said: “Many of us have experienced the frustration that roadworks can cause and with local councils still trying to catch up on planned roadworks since the pandemic started, road closures and other obstructions can be a common occurrence of our journeys. It’s important to know how to navigate roadworks to keep ourselves and others safe.”