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Our roads and highways are an unmatched path across our country. The most common mode of transportation in America is via our personal vehicles. In order to get where we want to go the roads have to be maintained. Because our population is always growing, the roads also have to be expanded. Construction zones are just another part of life and knowing how to navigate them safely is just another part of driving.

Cone zones can sneak up on a person. Just this morning, a crew was repairing a street lamp on a curve and drivers in that lane had to slow considerably and merge into the left lane. It happened really quickly and luckily there was enough room so that nobody got hurt (and thankfully I was in the left left lane and only had to watch them). It could have been worse. It would have been nice if there had been a sign or something warning about the impending merge, but c’est la vie.

Unfortunately, not everyone reacts well to a cone zone. Some people don’t notice at all when they enter a construction zone. They do not take actions that protect themselves and others from being hurt. Others like Arnoldo Placensia, a Sacramento construction worker who died early Thursday morning. He and his crew were repairing potholes in the Arden Arcade area at the corner of Marconi and Howe. At about 1:20am, Nancy Richards sped through the area at a high rate of speed and struck Placensia. She continued on and then struck a large piece of equipment and died at the scene.

Two lives were lost. Night construction is especially dangerous, but very common in the summer season. The weather is good and Caltrans and other road construction companies want to get as much work done as possible. At the same time, they want to disrupt traffic as little as possible. This leads to night construction, but even that can be safe if everyone pays attention. This tragedy could have been avoided. Officials say Richards smelled like alcohol and a toxicology report is pending. If Richards had followed some simple rules she and Placensia would still be alive today.

1. Slow Down- construction zones will often have large machinery and people moving about to and fro, ya know, working. By slowing down you give yourself more time to assess the situation and you give them more time to see you and get out of the way if necessary.

2. Follow Directions- sometimes there are workers with the sole purpose of directing traffic. I have run into times when people are telling me to do something that doesn’t seem safe or is illegal. I didn’t want to do it, but I did it anyway. Try to remember that you don’t know the whole layout of the project. The safest bet would be to listen to the people who do know what is going on.

3. Don’t Linger- don’t get me started on lookie-loos. I don’t like it when people pause to see what’s going on. It is an unexpected action and if you’re looking to the left or right that means you’re not looking in front of you.

4. Avoid Trouble Spots- if you know a certain bridge is going to be under construction for three weeks, try to find an alternate route to your destination. It will save you from having to sit in traffic and could keep you safer.

5. Be Patient- if all else fails and you find yourself stuck for a long period in time, turn on the radio, pull out the hands-free cell phone, and settle in. Try not to get frustrated and you’ll eventually make it through.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are people in the area that do not have the protection of one ton of steel surrounding them. Please look out for the brave men and women who risk their lives. When you think about their job and the fact that they stand in front of, beside, behind, and around these huge vehicles and trust those drivers to behave in a responsible fashion, it’s a pretty amazing thing.

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