- Work zones are risky for workers and drivers
- Work zone driving tips
- How to recognize a roadside work zone
Roadside work zones (also known as Cone Zones) present unique challenges for drivers. You have a role to play in keeping workers and yourself safe when you drive through work zones — including slowing down, paying attention, and following signs and instructions. Use our resources to learn the laws and best safety practices for driving in work zones.
Work zones are risky for workers and drivers
Think about the workplace you go to every day. Now, imagine cars and trucks whizzing by within just a few feet of you. That’s how vulnerable roadside workers are. Sometimes, orange cones are the only things separating their work site from moving vehicles weighing several tonnes.
How you drive in work zones can be the difference between workers getting home safely after their shift, or suffering an injury or being killed. Going too fast, or driving distracted or aggressively, can cause rear-end collisions and other crashes. And, if you’re not paying attention, you could hit or be hit by vehicles and equipment working in the zone.
According to WorkSafeBC statistics, 12 roadside workers were hit by a vehicle and killed in BC from 2012 to 2021. Another 221 people were injured and missed work. Drivers and their passengers were also hurt.
Every worker is someone’s parent, child, friend, neighbour, or co-worker.
The law requires all drivers approaching and driving through roadside work zones to:
- Slow down and drive with care
- Pay attention and leave your phone alone
- Obey road signs, traffic control devices, and people
BC also has a Slow Down Move Over law. It applies when you approach vehicles with red, blue, or amber lights flashing. These include:
- Emergency and enforcement (police, fire, ambulance, Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement, etc.)
- Tow trucks
- Maintenance (including mowers and street sweepers)
- Land surveying
- Conservation officers
- Waste collection
- Park rangers
- Canada Post
In these work zones, you’re required to change speed as follows:
|Posted speed limit||Slow in work zone to|
|80 km/h or higher||70 km/h or less|
|Less than 80 km/h||40 km/h or less|
Slow Down Move Over also requires you to move over on a multi-lane road to increase the space between your vehicle and the work zone, if it’s safe to do so. If moving over would create a danger to other road users, you are only required to slow down.
In a work zone that doesn’t have flashing lights or a posted speed limit, we recommend you follow the Slow Down Move Over guidelines.
The typical fines in BC for work zone violations include:
- Failing to follow the Slow Down Move Over Law: $173 and 3 points
- Using an electronic device while driving: $368
- Speeding: $196 and up
- Disobeying a traffic control device: $121
- Disobeying a traffic control person: $196
Work zone driving tips
When you approach a work zone, drive like you, a loved one or a close friend works there. Even if you’re briefly delayed, remember that those delays are necessary to help keep roadside workers safe.
Workers report speeding and distracted drivers as the dangerous behaviour they see the most. There’s a lot going on around you: shifting traffic patterns, uneven or narrow road surfaces, sudden stops, lane changes, and traffic control devices and persons.
The rules for driving safely in a work zone are easy to remember.
- Always slow down: Reduce speed as soon as you see work zone signs.
- Pay attention: Get off your phone. Distracted driving can have fatal consequences.
- Follow instructions: Traffic control persons or devices such as temporary road signs will guide you. Get to know the work zone signs.
Some other tips to follow:
Check your planned route before you go to find out if you’ll pass through any work zones. If you will, change your route if possible or expect delays and allow for extra travel time.
Visit DriveBC and use its Plan Your Route tool or Conditions & Events page. Both will alert you to work zones and various driving hazards. You can also listen to traffic reports or use GPS before and during your drive.
You may need to merge with another lane of traffic as you approach a work zone. If so, merging like a zipper will bring vehicles in both lanes together smoothly and get you through the merge faster.
When you see a merge sign and need to change lanes, don’t do it abruptly. Look for an opportunity to change lanes smoothly and safely, and move over early so you have more time to safely complete the merge. If you wait too long, you could hit a traffic control device or person, or end up inside the work zone.
Never enter the area behind barriers, cones, or any other traffic control devices.
Work zones can change daily, so anticipate new traffic patterns. Watch for other drivers and road users who may not be paying attention. Expect delays, especially during peak travel times.
Don’t tailgate. Allow extra space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. This gives you time to react if you need to stop suddenly, or if weather and road conditions make it more difficult to stop. Watch for large vehicles and avoid sudden lane changes in front of trucks or buses, which can be harder to handle and slower to respond.
Slow down even if you don’t see anyone working. Workers may not always be visible and they may appear suddenly. Dust from road construction can also obscure your vision.
Look out for potholes, uneven pavement and construction debris.
Like you, roadside workers have a job to do. Their work helps you.
For example, road maintenance and construction crews help keep highways safe for your travel. Traffic control persons help keep you safe by managing traffic flow. Municipal workers help ensure your local services function.
You can help them by:
- Making eye contact
- Stopping at least a car length away from a traffic control person
- Keeping your cool and being patient
A lot of work zones in BC operate at night and during bad weather. These times can be especially dangerous for workers and drivers. Visibility can be poor, and drivers may feel more fatigued due to stressful driving conditions.
When ice, cold, rain, or fog are present, make sure you slow down, drive for the conditions, and use low-beam headlights to improve vision at night. Also be aware of the signs of driver fatigue.
Roadside work zone speed limits can be in effect even when workers aren’t present. This is to help protect you from hazards associated with a road under construction. Hazards can include uneven road surfaces or drop-offs, narrow lanes, changes in alignment, reduced sight distances, and lack of shoulders or lane markings.
If you see work zone signs and devices covered or turned off and driving conditions are good, you can proceed at the regular posted speed limit.
Work zone tips for commercial drivers
Large blind spots, long stopping distances, and narrow lanes make work zones particularly challenging for large trucks and buses.
As you approach lane closures, check your blind spots and move into the open lane as soon as possible. Help prevent rear-end crashes by obeying speed limits, avoiding distractions, and maintaining extra space between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
If you need to suddenly slow down or stop, use your emergency flashers to alert drivers behind you.
Weather conditions can make work zones even more challenging to navigate. Review these winter driving tips for commercial carriers.
Test your knowledge by taking our Driving in a Work Zone Quiz.
If you drive on the job, review our Driving for Work Tool Kit to find out how you can reduce risk and prevent crashes.
How to recognize a roadside work zone
A roadside work zone is any area next to a road where a worker may be exposed to the hazards of moving vehicles. It can be fixed in one place, such as a construction site or the area around a tow truck picking up a stranded vehicle. Or it can be mobile work, such as mowing, line painting or garbage and recycling collection.
These types of work sites involve hundreds of activities. Tens of thousands of BC residents work in these zones every day, including municipal workers, landscapers, traffic control persons, tow truck drivers, road construction and maintenance workers, telecommunications and utility workers, and emergency and enforcement personnel.
Every one of them deserves to get home safe and healthy. You and your passengers do too.
You can often recognize a work zone by its bright orange cones, signs, devices, and traffic control persons. But not all work zones use cones. They may use barriers like barrels and fences, rumble strips, electronic signs, and reflectors instead.
And not all roadside workers are protected by work zone barriers. For example, paramedics treat patients who have been hurt on or near roads. Without any protective barriers, they need drivers to give them as much space and consideration as possible.
Automated Flagger Assistance Devices (AFADs) also indicate a work zone ahead. They’re becoming more common in BC.
AFADs are portable, remotely operated temporary traffic control devices with high visibility signage. They feature red and yellow traffic lights. A gate-arm with a fluorescent orange or red flag moves up and down, extending into the travel lane.
You’ll only see them on 2-lane, 2-way roadways and on multi-lane roadways that have been reduced to 1 lane.
A work zone extends from the first traffic control device drivers can see to the last one they can see. It can be hundreds of metres long, or only extend several metres around a work vehicle parked at the roadside. It may be in place for weeks or just for a few hours. In all cases, you’re responsible for obeying AFADs and sharing the road safely.
Understanding work zone signs
Work zone signs warn drivers of upcoming roadside sites and changes in traffic patterns. Drivers need to pay attention to the warnings and follow instructions on the signs and readerboards. Here’s what the signs tell you.
Traffic control person ahead
You’re approaching a work zone where you’ll be directed by a traffic control person. Slow down as you near and pass through the work zone.
Crew working ahead (for short duration work zones)
Workers are on the road. Watch carefully and avoid coming close to them.
Construction ahead (for longer duration work zone)
You’re entering a construction zone. Drive with extra caution and be prepared for changes in the speed limit.
Prepare to stop
You may be required to stop ahead. Slow down and watch for traffic control persons or devices. Be patient.
Single lane traffic
You’re approaching a section of single lane traffic. Slow down and watch for traffic control.
The lane is closed ahead. Adjust your speed to merge with or shift into the lane indicated by the arrow.
Lane closed ahead
The left or right lane is closed ahead on a road that has 2 or more lanes travelling in the same direction. Slow down, begin to merge into the lanes that remain open, allow other vehicles to merge safely, and be prepared to stop.
Traffic is temporarily detoured due to road work ahead.
Minimum $196 fine
The penalty you face for exceeding the work zone speed limit.