Why Slow Down if No Workers at Construction Site?

Have you ever driven through a signed construction speed zone with no workers in sight and thought, “Why the heck do I have to slow down if there’s nothing happening?”

It’s a question we get now and again on our social platforms – including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – so we decided to explain how speed management works when it comes to roadway construction zones.

Let us first say this: we understand that speed zones are most effective when drivers consider them reasonable. That means consistently following standards, keeping speed zones as short as possible, and clearly communicating where speed zones end.

That also means ensuring speed zone signs are covered, or removed, when they are not needed. Which begs the question: if no workers are present… shouldn’t the signs be covered?

No, not necessarily.

Yes, protecting workers is a big part of speed reductions in construction zones – but it’s not the only factor. Work zone speeds should take into account the type of work being done and the proximity of workers to traffic, but they should also factor in any changes in road characteristics.

Not all reduced construction zone speeds are the same – the limit depends on the zone.

During inactivity, speed reductions can be kept in place to protect travellers from hazards associated with a highway under construction. These can include:

  • Drop-offs
  • Uneven road surfaces
  • Narrow lanes
  • Changes in alignment
  • Reduced sight distances
  • Lack of shoulders or lane markings… to name a few.

Remember: our goal is to protect workers and road users while keeping people moving as efficiently as possible. In order to support this goal, we have created guidelines for all construction traffic control, which are available in the Traffic Management Manual for Work on Roadways.

Work zone safety is a two-way street, relying on proper traffic management procedures as well as caution from the driving public. The Cone Zone BC campaign website is a valuable resource for workers, employers and drivers to learn about their responsibilities and strategies for maintaining safety on the roads. Please check it out.

Do you have any other questions about construction zones? Let us know in the comments section.

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Page 1 of 17 comments on “Why Slow Down if No Workers at Construction Site?”

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  1. Why do the construction zones not have a sign indicating the end of work zone westbound on highway 1 just out of Hope? I have driven past this zone several times in the past few weeks, and this is the only non-ending zone. All others are correctly marked westbound and eastbound.

    • Hello again Kenneth – our area manager has reviewed the site. There is a sign in place on the barrier beside the left/passing lane but the contractor will also install another one on the right hand side for consistency. Thanks again for bringing this to our attention. Safe travels.

  2. I received a ticket for speeding on 97C on a weekend. There were no workers, no sign of paused work, no cones or equipment, and no uncovered reduced speed signs. I slowed down from 110 to 88 to pass a parked car. It was an RCMP, who waved to stop me and issued the ticket for driving 88. I assume his parked car was to be considered a work zone? Please advise.

    • Hi there JA,

      Unfortunately, we are unable to comment or provide an interpretation on a legal issue. If you feel you were ticketed unfairly, we encourage you to challenge the decision in traffic court.

  3. Speed signs do not work as virtually everyone is speeding. There is almost no speed enforcement on our highways. If you travel at the posted limit every vehicle on the road will pass you and you will be tail gated for sure. It is totally out of control and people are injured or killed every day. The only time I see police on the highway is because of a accident. What happened to police patrolling and enforcing speed limits as I never see them any more.

    • The reason you only see police at the scene of an accident is because they (usually RCMP) are too busy looking for easy marks to hand out a ticket. I had two officers stop the car and get out, card me, because I was smoking too close to a door. Meanwhile there was some lady high as a kite screaming half a block away, no police.

      The justice system and piddly laws are way out of control. The police find it easy work and just enforce them. The pile of tickets shows that they were doing *something* while on duty, and I wouldn’t doubt if they are issued sales targets for how many tickets they can hand out in a blitz to increase revenue (ie. make the city happy).

      The littany of infraction tickets cops can hand out nowadays is such a zoo that they have to start allowing ignorance to be a reasonable defense. I actually had a cop tell me: “I’m giving you a ticket for finishing your beer in a public place (that wasn’t a public place). You can only drink in a bar or at home. But you cannot be intoxicated in a public place, and you cannot drink and drive, and a taxi is considered a public place, as is a bus or transit station.” You would think that these bozos don’t realize that the government is in the business of selling and taxing liquor and related products.

      Speeding can kill people. Having a beer in a park will not. Smoking a cigarette in a park will not. Where I live in Surrey, we have stabbings, shootings, break ins, car theft, open drug dealing, addicts wandering around everywhere, but the cops are too interested in the low hanging fruit of writing BS tickets.

      That is why you don’t see them patrolling for speeding. Ironically, those are tickets as well. They just want to stick close to a Tim Hortons in an urban area where they can drive around and hide, writing the occasional BS ticket rather than doing real police work.

    • We were travelling in BC over the summer and a driver was tailgating me because I was obeying speed limit in a work zone. The thing was that there were workers around. There were even huge light up signs ahead, no passing signs, and a worker with a stop sign standing ahead. The driver behind me decided to disregard the 50 signs that were present and decided to pass me, almost hitting the worker ahead. The worker saw this and called over the foreman. The driver tried to pin it on us but it was so obvious that they were at fault. He probably got a nasty ticket.

      • If someone tries to tailgate you in a construction zone, don’t be ashamed of yourself of what they think of you. If they are doing that to you in a construction zone, then the person who tailgates you like that is most likely to be wrong.

  4. There was a construction zone on Hwy 5 north of Blue River that remained signed for approximately nine months with no activity. An employee of the contractor admitted to me that it was there so that CVSE could write tickets!

    • Hi Brendan,

      Thanks for your comments about the speed zone on Hwy 5, north of Blue River.

      The speed reader board was located for about nine months, in a permanent speed zone that has been reduced speed to 70 km/hr, from 100 km/hr, through the community of Avola. It was there to remind motorists of the new speed limit.

      A speed reader board is not used by itself, in a construction zone. In constructions zones, there are usually a series of signs in advance of the temporary speed zone, and the speed reader boards are there to reinforce the posted speed limit, by showing the actual speed of the vehicle travelling through the zone.

      The RCMP and the CVSE (Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement) who issue tickets for excessive speed, base their documentation on data provided by routinely calibrated radar guns.

      I hope this clarifies the situation for you.

  5. February 7th. 2019

    I have been driving constantly on hwy. 1 and coquihalla hwy. since 2000. Every car I had had broken windshield . Most of the drivers had some problem. I don’t understand why they have to put a big rocks (gravel ) on the road instead of sand and keep the road in better condition.
    I drove couple weeks ago to Edmonton. ALL roads were in perfect condition no snow no ice and I didn’t see any of Alberta drivers with broken windshield.

    • Hello Ivana,

      Small screened crushed gravel instead of sand is used because the particles in this mix are heavy enough to stay on the road in a wind, large enough not to vanish under new snow or freezing rain, and yet small enough to keep the frustrating windshield chips and paint dings to a minimum.

      On main provincial highways, no piece of winter abrasive is allowed to be over 12.5 mm in diameter. That’s about the size of a Cheerio. Very little of the mix is allowed to be even that big, with most of the material falling between 2.36 mm and 4.35 mm in size. (Less-travelled paved highways use a larger mix with a maximum diameter of 16mm.)

      Your best protection is to keep your distance from other drivers, and if you do get a windshield chip, have it fixed right away.

  6. I appreciate this explanation, and the acknowledgement that the zones need to make sense, consistently following standards, keeping speed zones as short as possible, and clearly communicating where speed zones end.
    Yes, that recognition is very helpful.

    I’m concerned that the decisions in these situations are left to individual contractors and not vetted by more experienced MOT staff.

    In the past I certainly have seen situations where there were no;
    – Drop-offs
    – Uneven road surfaces
    – Narrow lanes
    – Changes in alignment
    – Reduced sight distances
    – Lack of shoulders or lane markings
    – workers present
    – new hazards present.

    Yet traffic (1000s of commuters per day) was slowed 20Km below the (real) limit.

    I encourage the MOT to discourage construction zones that “cry wolf” as I fear these desensitize drivers to the real hazards.

    • Thank you for this comment Greg – we appreciate hearing from you. Is there somewhere in particular you noticed these issues? If we knew the locations, we could share your concern with the local district staff for review.

  7. I fully understand the construction speed limit changes, items listed above are a very good example. What frustrates me is the flaggers leaving their signs up for weeks/months at a time. If there is no flagger standing there, take your flagger signs down. MoT needs to do something to enforce proper signage or the signs just become meaningless.