Munich. Veering trucks, narrow lanes, limited space – motorway construction sites are dangerous bottlenecks that can involve special risks during the peak holiday season. In these situations, inexperienced drivers often show their insecurity behind the wheel. TÜV SÜD’s experts have tips on steering safely through tricky points.
Motorway construction sites are time-consuming and test drivers’ patience to the limit. Involving narrow lanes, changes to traffic routing and increased danger of congestion, they are particularly dangerous areas. Forests of traffic signs, speed limits, entrances and exits, speeding contraflow traffic that is only the width of a white line away and flashing warning lights all add up to conditions that can cause many drivers‘ hearts to race. On a rainy night, the situation takes on a further dangerous dimension; drivers that find themselves in tricky situations have little space to react. TÜV SÜD’s Jürgen Wolz recommends, “The main thing to do at construction sites is to keep calm, observe all speed limits to the letter and – above all – stay at a safe distance.”
Keeping your distance: Road-hogs are a common phenomenon around construction sites, busily tailgating in their attempts to “clear” the inside lane. But the narrow lanes and often confusing traffic routing leave little space for other road-users to get out of their way or react quickly enough. In addition, vehicles driving along re-routing require more space – here in particular, keeping your distance is simply the only option. For this reason, drivers in bottlenecks should ensure they leave sufficient space between them and the car in front. Jürgen Wolz explains, "Lanes around construction sites are especially narrow at entrance or exit points or when there is no side verge. In these areas, overtaking or driving side by side is a risky business – it is better to stagger your position to the vehicles around you!"
Stick to speed limits: Excessive speed is the most frequent cause of accidents at motorway building sites. Yet when roads are congested, speeding is a very ineffective way of saving time. To take a simple example: on a stretch of road with an 80-km-per-hour speed limit, a motorist who drives at 100 kilometres per hour will take six minutes for a ten-kilometre route compared to a mere seven-and-a-half minutes by sticking to the speed limit. In addition, high speeds are virtually impossible to keep up in narrow lanes and heavy traffic, and cause additional stress. The golden rule, then, especially around construction sites, is to take your foot off the accelerator.
Overtaking at construction sites: Inside lanes are often reduced to a width of two metres, making overtaking a tricky manoeuvre – particularly when cars overtake large vehicles like coaches or trucks. TÜV SÜD’s recommendation for any drivers that feel insecure in this situation is to change to the outside lane until the construction site is behind them. Note that in the case of an accident, part of the blame may quickly fall on the overtaking vehicle.
Breakdown at construction sites: When sections of road are renewed, the hard shoulder is often pressed into use as a normal traffic lane. For this reason, if you break down near a construction site, do your best to reach an emergency layby. If this is not possible, switch your hazard lights on and park the car on the outside edge of the motorway. All passengers must then put on high-vis vests, get out of the car on the side facing away from the traffic, and move to a position of safety behind the crash barrier. As you go to set up the warning triangle, make hand signals to warn other road-users. And be sure to notify the police, given the increased risk of an accident at that point.