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 48 comments on “Why Slow Down if No Workers at Construction Site?”

Leave a Reply to Eugene Eklund Cancel reply

  1. I live on Froelich Road intersected with Houghton Road in Kelowna BC Canada and right now there’s major construction going on with several ROAD Closed barriers set up and these ignorant drivers of Kelowna continue to either Move the Tubular Barriers or Drive Over the Tubular Barriers.
    Can they be Fined IF a photo/video of them doing so was taken?
    Thank You!

    • Hi there, Momma P – thanks for your question. Enforcement of traffic rules falls to the BC RCMP or local authority having jurisdiction so we encourage you to reach out to those members in your community for clarification. Hope this is helpful.

  2. Hwy 5, Valemont to Clearwater, construction zones are the most unsafe driving experiences I have had in over 50 years of driving all over North America. In one hour of night time driving, 14 reduced speed zone and not one construction worker or vehicle in sight, this happens every night time trip through this area. On a rare occasion there might be a “security “ unit sitting on the approach road, or on an even more rare occasion there is an active construction site with workers.

    Now I am in full agreement that an active site, where there’s actually a need to reduce speed for everyone’s safety, slow down. Safety first, everyone has the right to expect to go home safely at the end of the day or night.

    In all my travels, I have never seen such a blatant disregard for safety as I see here, safety for workers and the highway drivers. When you see day after day, month after month and now year after year this abuse of “construction Zone” signs where there are no workers present, I have to wonder, where the failure is in our legislation.

    Does the BC government not have the willpower to stand up against a pipeline construction firm and make them accountable as to why the signs are needed, is it the laziness of both the government and contractors to remove signage when not required for the remainder of the shift?

    In this day and age of technology, I have seen remote controlled signage for speed control even on interstate highways where drivers are typically travelling 120 km/h and the signs change progressively to 70-80 but then go back to full speed again when all is clear. On a project like this drawn out pipeline, why is this still an issue 5 years later.

    A lot of drivers become complacent when they see the abuse of a speed zone, start to ignore them and then the whole area becomes unsafe. I understand the safety of workers putting up and removing signage, a task that is not necessary in most cases with technology, I understand drivers safety and the economic impact on speed changes every couple kms, I understand the police presence and frustration of enforcement, I DON’T understand the lack of foresight, leadership or desire of the government and companies to correct the errors of what they are doing.

    Summer is around the corner again, tourism is always a challenge navigating the roads. I am so tired of reading that it’s all the drivers fault for dangerous driving in speed zones, it’s time for those creating the problem to step up to the plate, resolve the issue as a team instead of just pointing a finger at others. Once the issue has been resolved then enforcement with full impact will make it safer for all of us.

    Everyone needs to do their job when it comes to safety, where is BC Worksafe inspectors in all this, as drivers and contractors we all follow their rules and scrutiny? I have bit my tongue on this for 5 years now hoping that this would be the last year but it looks worse again and this problem is applicable in every construction zone, not just the pipeline (which is definitely the worst I’ve seen).

    There’s enough safety organizations in BC to review this issue, do none of them care or just waiting for the next fatality or spill of dangerous chemicals before they react to the headlines.

    I know this was a waste of time writing this but enough coffee shop or radio chatter, lets all push for safer roads

    Have a safe trip!

    • Hello Gary and thanks for your comments. We are receiving them!
      We have shared your concerns about Highway 5N with our local area staff. Look for more focused content over the coming months in regard to that stretch and the construction work underway there. If you would also like to connect with our staff directly regarding your concerns, we encourage you to reach out to them at the contact info provided below.
      Southern Interior Regional Office
      447 Columbia Street
      Kamloops, BC V2C 2T3
      Telephone: +1-250-828-4220
      Email: Kamloops.Regional.Transportation@gov.bc.ca

      • Thank you for replying. I noticed this week in travelling that section that 5 of the noted “construction zones” had the 70 km signs covered which is great to see, making the travel less stressful.

        I will contact the regional office to discuss, thanks for the contact information.

  3. Hello Cathy.

    A very nice explanation and most of it is very reasonable. What is unreasonable are the numerous examples of road work signage that do not follow the “standards” that you describe. A recent example I experienced was heading north on highway 5. Signs indicating road construction taking place were up and the speed limit was reduced to 50kmh. I set my odometer and it was just under 8km of no activity, no machinery and no workers before a work zone was actually encountered. There were two machines working off the side of the highway and a single flagger. The actual “work zone” was about 300m long and as soon as we passed the area, the speed was increased again. There is no way this could be considered “as short as possible” and was definitely not reasonable as the marked speed reduction zone was bare and dry and the road was in perfect condition. Another example would be the current highway 1 work at the west end of Salmon Arm. Apart from the final line painting, the roadwork is finished and there has not been any workers or activity in that area for many months yet the speed is still reduced to 50kmh. There has been a LOT of online discussion about this area and nobody feels this is “reasonable”, especially those getting ticketed for speeding in the so-called work zone. It is great to have safety standards set and I am all in favour of keeping workers and travellers safe, however, if the highways department does not follow their own guidelines, most drivers will ignore them and they become ineffective.

  4. hello, I’m wondering what the rule is when passing a Construction vehicle with flashing lights on. Are you supposed to slow down? I’m not talomg about in a construction zone just for a construction vehicle

    • Hi Ryan – thanks for your question.

      the Slow Down, Move Over rule states:

      Drivers must slow their speed to 70km/h when in an 80km/h or over zone, and 40km/h when in an under 80km/h zone. If travelling on a multi-lane road, the driver must move into another lane to pass when passing stopped vehicles with a flashing light, where safe to do so.

      Whether the vehicle is a police, fire, ambulance, tow trucks, maintenance contractors, Commercial Vehicle Safety Enforcement vehicles, park rangers and conservation officers, please obey the law. We made the change to the rule because before it stated “official vehicles,” but our stakeholders, including the BC Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association, raised concerns that the previous regulation didn’t include/protect all roadside workers.

      Here’s a link to more info: https://www.tranbc.ca/2015/01/02/one-change-to-slow-down-move-over-rule-improves-safety/

      Hope this information is helpful. Safe travels!

  5. this is a typical government answer. shortest coned area which is a half kilometer before and after. probably safe BC guide lines. but way to long. but when it`s an active construction zone people will slow down. now lets talk about the pipeline construction. these guys have an active construction zone for most of hwy 5. and none of their work is on the hwy. this is a huge safety hazard. and this is what gets workers killed. people driving on hwy 5 from AB come across the first construction zone and slow down, and they also realize it`s not a construction zone. then they get to the next zone and slow down and same thing. and the next zone they don`t slow down as much then by the time they have gone through half dozen of these so called construction zones nobody is slowing down anymore. do you see how the problem started and the minister of transportation allowed it to happen. and the sad thing is someone is going to get hit in a construction zone because someone never slowed down .

    • Hi there Perry – thanks for raising this concern with us here. We shared your feedback with our staff responsible for monitoring construction along the corridor and they have agreed to review pipeline access points and remove ones which are inactive, in an effort to assist with driver vigilance within the cone zone. Thanks again for this. Safe travels.

    • Perry just consider this. If you add up all that time spent slowing down in construction zones, it might, at maximum, cost you 10 minutes of your trip. Now imagine, in one of those construction zones that you say is unoccupied, maybe it is in place because every 5 minutes a truck hauling pipe is crossing the roadway.

      Sure, you might go through ten and not see one truck, but as you approach the eleventh, and decide to speed through that zone, you will come around a corner and smash into 4 parked cars (2 occupants in each), 2 traffic control persons guiding the truck (1 driver, 1 swamper) across with a side boom (1 operator) in tow.

      Fast forward to the court case where all 9 people are suing you for injuries that you will have to pay for for the rest of their lives. Someone might even die in the accident and children will be raised without a parent, or friends will have to mourn the loss of their friend, all because you selfishly sped through a construction zone because you thought there wasn’t enough work going on to be worthy of your ten minute delay.

      How will you feel then?

  6. There are still a lot of inconsistencies. Take lack of shoulders. Many roads have no shoulders yet have a normal speed limit. Stop acting as though all drivers are idiots. And before you say we have to deal with the lowest common denominator, that would mean no vehicles on the roads at all.
    So no, if no one is working, and the roads are usable, no speed restrictions.
    And another thing, no speed zones further than half a km from the construction site.

    • Hi Eugene – thanks for your comment. In isolation, a lack of shoulders alone might not seem like a need to reduce the speed limit. But when you add in lack of line markings, raised castings, alternate alignment, etc., it becomes easier to understand why we maintain reduced limits inside cone zones – despite lack of personnel on site. Hope that this helps clarify!

      • Most of the speed zones in the Yellowhead corridor are for pipeline construction equipment entering and leaving the highway. There are no irregularities in the highway and all lines are still visible. After 6 pm there are no workers present anywhere. The signs are left up because they don’t want to be putting them up and taking them down every day. No other reason.

        • Often, while there is no active pipeline construction, there are workers filling up and greasing heavy equipment, filling up light towers and moving equipment from site to site. Stringing out the pipe is often done at night, when the traffic is lighter and the danger is slightly lowered. Don’t just assume because you see no one on the road at the moment you pass by, that there is no one working at all.

          You, as a professional driver, should be concerned for the safety of others and be considerate and understanding that while people are at work, just doing their jobs, they shouldn’t have to put their life on the line. Not just that, but the most dangerous part of a traffic control zone is the setting up and removing of the Temporary Traffic Control Devices. I have been blocking for a tow truck on highway 5 with sufficient visibility to see trucks approaching from 1 km away, and those same trucks have ignored my speed reduction signs and driven past while watching a video on their tablet, mounted to the window.

          It is hard to feel for your slight delay in travel when we risk our lives and they don’t drive with courtesy or consideration. Why slow down when passing work crews? Why slow down when passing a cop? Once, as a truck sped past my work zone, a little pebble flew from his tire and nailed me in the cheek. It felt like I was shot. Be a little considerate and pass that message on to your other trucker friends. You speed past us now, but when you break down in a travel lane, we are there to help you. Help us stay safe.

    • Eugene,

      I invite you to join a traffic control company during the set up of a traffic control zone, or maybe spend a weekend with a tow truck company. You tell us to “stop acting as though all drivers are idiots”, I would like to see how your opinion changes after one of those experiences. Then you too will understand that 90% of drivers are not paying sufficient attention to their surroundings and when you realize the risk drivers take at the expense of the road workers, you will sing a different song. Try not to make judgement until you have been in someone else’s shoes.

  7. I’m a semi driver some people don’t know how to drive in-front of loaded truck-trailer! So sometimes they create a situation which Unexpected so to be safe we try to get far away from those people or try to slow down to they can leave but we have to go at our destination we can’t stop or slow down to much but if police or cvse saw us they issued a ticket without thinking about what actually happened. I don’t know how we spoused to deal with this kind of issues which we all semi driver deal with every day?? My suggestion for all small cars amd pickup with camper need to know couple things abt how to drive on highway and in front of semi because they break right front or semi on downhill without thinking how it will gonna stop? and how big is this? How do I survive if loaded semi hit me!? Pls don’t do this things let us go because we bringing ur food groceries ur kids toy Daly base etc…..!!

    • That’s the biggest lot of bunk I’ve ever heard. Rarely do I see a semi leave safe distance between vehicles or even their fellow semi drivers. These truck drivers as well crawl up your ass to try intimidate you instead of putting on their brakes to leave a safe margin like they should. I have many front and rear dash cam videos to make my point very clear. In addition to these construction zones which they have ample time to slow down in I have several more where they pass on double solids and in corners where they can’t see what’s coming toward them day and night.

      • I was about to say the same thing then I saw your reply! Im a traffic controller and rarely do these big rigs abide by construction site rules like they feel the rules dont apply to them . I am very conscious about big rigs coming through my work zones I Always try my hardest to not make them stop coming down a hill I move my cones as safely as possible to give them space coming thru… and yet 90% wont bother to abide by the same rules and respect 👏

        • I feel your pain Char, respect should be a two way street. Might I suggest two things. Body camera and front and rear “dash cameras”. Create a youtube account and post your videos. Tag the trucking company’s social media in your posting. Share it with BC Trucking Assosciation, RCMP, a media outlet or two, CVSE for sure, and RoadSafetyBC, WorkSafeBC, TransBC and others. Then, call or email that trucking company, give them the date, time and location of the incident. Remind them that every year numerous roadside workers are hit within traffic control zones, or while attending to breakdowns with their lights activated. Remind them that we are flesh and bone and they are 100,000 pound of metal and that we need them to pay attention, reduce their speed and consider the consequences of their actions. Sometimes I call 4 or 5 trucking companies a day, and then email them the video I posted to youtube. While you may not get a desirable reaction right a way, if you tell other TCPs to do what I told you to do, together maybe we can make some changes. Also, talk to your RCMP about actually enforcing the Slow Down Move Over laws, talk to the Minister of Public Safety about making the SDMO fines actually worth something. In BC, should the rare vehicle be charged with failure to Slow Down and Move Over, the driver gets $173 ticket and 3 points. In Ontario, your first offence is $400 to $2000, 3 penalty points and they can suspend your license for 2 years. Second offence (for the super ignorant) can be suspended license for 2 years, up to $4000 fine and 6 months in jail… guess how many tickets have been issued? Over 10,000. In BC, I think it is safe to say that throughout the entire time we have had that law, I bet we haven’t issued 500 tickets. I will bet a paycheque on that.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • If you passed a police vehicle doing 88 in a 110 zone, you are actually required to reduce your speed to 70 km/hr, if their lights were activated. If not, then you likely missed all of the signs and you probably were in a cone zone. You wouldn’t be alone, many people have tunnel vision and ignore all of their surroundings. Try scanning your horizon, reduce the volume of your radio, and focus on what’s going on. You would be surprised at how much of your cognitive function is consumed even just listening to the radio.

  10. 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.

    • I agree with your completely, and though I don’t know what area you live in, here in Kelowna when an officer arrives to start their shift, they open up their computer and it auto populates the calls they are assigned to. Before they even start their shift, they can have 2 assualts, 2 domestics, 1 missing persons and then emergencies arise and they have to attend to a wellness check (while fire and ems perform the check, the rcmp needs to be there anytime an emergency service breaks into a locked residence), they have to attend all unexpected deaths, document any motor vehicle incidents etc etc.

      The solution? A dedicated Provincial Highway Patrol like Alberta did with Sheriffs (in some areas). This takes highways off of the RCMP’s list and frees up resources. They also need to allow some bylaw officers to be Peace Officers with the ability to pull over vehicles and enforce the Motor Vehicle Act. Write the Ministry of Pubic Safety with this suggestion.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    • Brian – you are 100% correct. I was recently in Richmond and saw construction zones with flagger signs up at night, no one around. This is doing everyone in traffic control a disservice.

      Imagine, a pedestrian crossing with the lights always flashing. It doesn’t take long for people to quit looking for pedestrians. Same with the flagger sign. Within 150 m of a flagger sign, you should see a flagger actively directing traffic. If not, you can take the following action. Contact the company doing the work, there might be a sign posted at the beginning of large projects, with a 24 hr number. If not, you can usually go online and see who has a permit for that area. Take pictures if you can safely.


      I would actually recommend that TranBC make it a standard to have a warning on the back of TCP ahead signs. Give TC companies a year to comply and then audit them the same way you audit their set up, and if flaggers have tickets. Then remind all municipalities of the legal way to use TCP signs. In Surrey, I was one permanently attached to a post. I tried to remove it but didn’t have the tools, then I realize I could pull the post from the ground and turn it around, which I did.

      • Hi Troy, It is not good practice to leave signs in place which are no longer relevant. The Traffic Management Manual speaks to this in a few areas, including Section 5.4.1 TCP Apparel and Equipment Personal, under Basic Requirements, which says “Traffic Control Person Ahead C-001-1 Sign: The sign shall be removed or covered when TCPs are not actively controlling traffic.” That said, if you see signs that you don’t believe should be present, we advise you to contact the municipality/organization to inform them of your concern, so that they may manage the signage for the work and location they are responsible for.