Construction Zone Driving Tips in Minnesota

With Memorial Day coming up this weekend, the unofficial “start” of summer is just a few days away. Although summer driving in Minnesota excludes snow, ice, and sleet, the upcoming season brings new challenges to our highways, country roads, and downtown streets. And, if you haven’t noticed the sea of orange barrels and cones on your commute yet, consider yourself lucky, as road construction is in full swing.

Work Zone Safety

A work zone is where you can see workers, flaggers, or surveyors in fluorescent yellow, green, and orange vests, and the area is marked with orange cones, barrels, concrete barriers, or moving vehicles with bright flashers. It’s important to be aware when you’re traveling through a work zone, as a fine for a violation in these areas is a painful and preventable $300. To ensure yours and other’s safety, be sure to follow these driving tips during construction season:

  • Stay off cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices
  • Be patient and plan ahead, especially during rush hour
  • Stay alert and aware, as road construction can occur during the night
  • As progress happens, be prepared for changes in lane shifts, road/ramp closures, and moving workers
  • Don’t speed
  • Avoid constantly changing lanes
  • Practice zipper merging

What is the Zipper Merge?

Many of us fail to perform the zipper merge because our “Minnesota Nice” instinct tell us differently. But, to keep traffic moving safely and efficiently, this tactic is essential. A zipper merge occurs when drivers use both lanes of traffic up until reaching the designated merge area, and then take turns merging into the open lane in a “zipper-like” fashion.

Benefits of Zipper Merge vs. Early Merge

When most motorists see the initial “lane closed ahead” sign, they immediately slow down and move into the open lane that takes them through the construction zone. This causes unnecessary delays, dangerous lane switching, road rage, and crashes. However, zipper merging:

  • Reduces major differences in speeds between the two lanes
  • Decreases the length of backed up traffic
  • Diminishes congestion on freeway interchanges
  • Demonstrates fairness in that all lanes are moving at the same speed

Nothing says summer in Minnesota like road construction. Although the frequent road closures and traffic jams are beyond irritating, construction is a necessary evil that keeps our roads in good condition. By following these summer driving tips and practicing the zipper merge, you’ll be sure to have a summer full of fun and safe road trips!