Construction workers pave a portion of U.S. Highway 36 on Friday in St. Joseph. Dealing with construction greatly increases the need for safe driving practices, Major Thomas Cates of the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office said.

Improvements are being done to local and major highways around St. Joseph, and that can have an impact on traffic crashes.

Construction increases the likelihood of crashes on roadways, Major Thomas Cates of the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office said.

“Especially when it’s cut down to single lanes of traffic on a four-lane highway, the merge zone is one of the highest areas of danger,” he said. “People aren’t used to driving, also, in such a narrow lane at higher rates of speed. And then we also have the normal, distracted driving problems and it just gets further exacerbated.”

Room for error is further minimized because people often want to drive as fast as possible. Even if the speed limit is reduced, motorists will want to go at the maximum allowed speed, Cates said.

“When traffic is being backed up further there could be something up ahead that is causing a slow-down,” he said. “People just don’t really think further ahead of themselves, right? Where the traffic is opening back up if there could be some impediment up there.”

There also is a chance that construction site debris is in the roadway. If a motorist doesn’t notice debris and drives over it, that could cause additional problems, Cates said.

“There could be slippage or tires losing grip,” he said. “There could be someone (who) blows a tire out and needs to slow down, move over to the side of the road. There’s a huge difficulty in doing so, especially in some of the areas of 36 Highway that travels through town, and there is no median that someone can get into.”

In a situation with no way to immediately pull off the road, a motorist would have to continue driving until he or she could access the shoulder, or risk blocking traffic with an accident, Cates said.

It isn’t just items that could create obstructions, it also could be workers moving across the highway, Cates said. Several construction sites in the area even have signs notifying drivers they can be fined $10,000 for hitting a worker.

Alexander Simone can be reached at alex.simone@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter at @np_simone.

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