Dangers For Motorcycles In Highway Work Zones

We’ve all been known to let out a groan when we see the annual orange barrels appear along our route to work. Road construction seems endless across Missouri, and increased highway spending has only added to the problem for many commuters. Lower speeds, narrow roadways, and moving construction equipment make these passages dangerous for all motorists, but motorcyclists face even more hazards. Uneven pavement, rough surfaces, and drop-offs are not just a nuisance to a biker—they can be death traps.

Dangers of Work Zones

According to the Federal Highway Administration, an average of 700 motorists die each year in approximately 70,000 work zone crashes. This accounts for about 2 percent of all traffic fatalities in a given year. Of those fatalities, around 10 percent are motorcyclists.

While efforts are made to protect workers in construction zones and blame is often placed on the driver in a work zone motorcycle crash, seven times as many drivers die in these accidents as highway workers. Even when motorists obey warning signs, these zones present hazards that endanger drivers, particularly drivers of motorcycles.

Road Work Dangers for Motorcycles

It’s important that all motorists—including bikers—slow down and follow all road signs in construction zones. However, even when they obey traffic laws and ride cautiously, motorcyclists may be at risk.

Hidden hazards and small discrepancies in road surface can throw a biker off balance and cause him to lose control. As roads are repaired and rebuilt, driving lanes are shifted and narrowed. Travel lanes can be uneven and have gaps or ledges. Often motorists must drive on unfinished surfaces, which can be rough or slick. While most cars can manage these conditions safely at a reduced speed, these changes can be dangerous for motorcycles. With only two wheels that are smaller than car and truck wheels, even a small gap can cause a motorcycle to spin out.

According to the Roadway Safety Consortium, the following road surfaces found in construction zones are dangerous for motorcycles:

  • Grooves from pavement milling. These long grooves cause instability for motorcycles and can contribute to loss of control.
  • Unpaved or gravel surfaces. These surfaces are uneven and offer poor traction. They can cause problems for motorcycles, including skidding and loss of control.
  • Rumble strips. Bikers try to avoid rumble strips on pavement, as they can throw off a rider’s balance. However, when they’re used to warn motorists to slow down for a construction zone, they often come up unexpectedly and can’t be avoided.
  • Liquids on pavement surface. Construction operations can create puddles in the roadway, creating slick surfaces for motorcycles.
  • Blackout tape. Blackout tape may be used to cover old or confusing lane markers. Over time, the surface of the tape becomes worn and loses friction, which may cause motorcycle tires to slip and the rider to lose control.
  • Large pavement markings. Arrows, text, and route shields affixed to travel lanes become slick and hazardous in wet weather, creating a hazard for motorcycles.
  • Steel plates. Large steel plates may be used to temporarily cover excavations or large holes in pavement and allow travel in the lane when workers aren’t present. In wet or icy weather, these surfaces are hazardous to motorcycles.
  • Uneven lanes. Asphalt paving can create a height difference between adjacent lanes of travel. Unlike cars, motorcycles have difficulty crossing uneven lanes that differ by as little one inch. Abrupt changes in height are particularly challenging for bikers.
  • Manhole covers. As road workers build the layers of pavement, manhole covers remain exposed and elevated, creating an obstacle that can cause a biker to be thrown out of his seat.
  • Travel lane alignment shifts. As travel lanes shift back and forth to allow for road rebuilding, motorcyclists must cross edges, lane markers, rumble strips, drainage grates, and other hazards they wouldn’t ordinarily have to drive over.

Have You Been Injured In A Motorcycle Accident?

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident you need to speak with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816-471-5111 to schedule your free consultation.

You can also order your FREE copy of our book, “KC Biker Bible.”