California Rules of the Road for Construction Zones
It is important for all drivers to know the California rules of the road for construction zones. We are living in a state where the interstate highway systems are constantly being upgraded and expanded. Major construction projects like the expansion of the 405 freeway between Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley typify the massive scale that these projects take on and the potential for motor vehicle accidents involving serious bodily injury or death if speed restrictions and other rules are not obeyed.What are the Main California Vehicle Code Sections Applicable to Construction Zones?
California Vehicle Code §21370 authorizes the California State Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) or any of its “authorized representatives” (e.g. construction contractors) to, “restrict the use of and regulate the movement of traffic” for the safety of motorist and the safety of workers who are engaged in any improvement project of the interstate highway system in the Golden State.
Most often this authority is used to either redirect the flow of traffic including reducing the number of travel lanes or to reduce the speed limit of areas abutting a state highway that is being constructed or improved.
California Vehicle Code §22362 states that it is a prima facie violation of the basic speed law to travel in excess of any posted signs within 400 feet of a highway building area and that the limits can be set as low as 25 miles per hour.
California Vehicle Code §42010 provides for enhanced penalties and fines for speed violations in and around “Safety Enhancement Double Fine Zones”.
California Vehicle Code §565 Restricts the use of “special construction equipment” like certain types of road graders, pavers or earth moving equipment on highways except by special permit.Common Types of Highway Construction Area Traffic Collisions
The above rules are in place for a reason as most traffic mishaps occur based upon unsafe lane merges and speeding through stretches of road adjacent to highway development projects. These common scenarios include the following:
- Trying to “beat out” traffic including other passenger vehicles, trucks and other heavy equipment to a single lane of travel that is merging down from multiple lanes.
- Speeding and losing control in tight turns or corners in and around signage that indicates an upcoming turn or merge.
- Losing control of the vehicle from jerking the wheel when coming on and off of uneven pavement due to a rate of speed that is too high for these roadway conditions.
- Striking fixed objects including barriers, signs, and construction equipment which often causes a car to spin out of control and into the flow of traffic behind the vehicle.
- Hitting workers that are on foot in and around the area.
There are many variables as to causation for any accident or injury claim on a public highway or thoroughfare. These variables increase dramatically when the collision occurs within a close proximity to a area of a roadway that is being improved or constructed. The determination as to who may be found negligent and liable for the costs associated with bodily injury or wrongful death in these cases is sometimes quite complex. These incidents usually involve multiple parties including private entities, businesses and even government bodies. In the case of claims against the government for negligent supervision or maintenance of a work zone, there are issues of governmental immunities (i.e. special provisions of law that exempt government entities from civil liability in certain instances) as well as shorter statutes of limitations (the time limit for filing claims). Claims against CALTRANS or other government entities usually must be filed within 6 months of the incident under California law and a lawsuit filed within a short time-frame afterwards depending upon whether the initial government tort claim is accepted or rejected. Likewise, the scene of the accident can change very quickly following the incident just simply due to the nature of the construction project.
For all these reasons, it is imperative that any person injured in this type of traffic mash-up consult with and retain a personal injury attorney that is experienced in handling these types of claims. The lawyer can hire investigators and accident reconstruction experts to examine and photograph the scene, analyze construction plans and traffic flow data, and research the various persons or entities that may be legally responsible for payment of money damages. Any delay in obtaining this information through the assistance of a quality injury lawyer can be devastating to the value of any claims the injured person(s) or their family (in the case of a fatality) may have.