A confused flagger almost destroyed my car and left me injured, and this isn't the first time it's happened.

There are many jobs that I wouldn't want to do. One of them is the flagger who directs traffic at road construction sites. It's a grueling and dangerous job performed while confronting moving vehicles in extreme weather conditions. From what I hear, the position comes with some pretty good compensation and benefits, but that's probably because it's a critical job that needs to be taken very seriously.

Unfortunately, the care and concentration needed to be a flagger aren't always carried out by the person tasked to do this important work.

In the past I've encountered flaggers who were distracted by their phones or daydreaming and have been greeted with a limp hand that I couldn't tell was instructing me to go or stop. In these situations, I've been able to roll down my window and ask them what they wanted me to do. This usually snaps them out of their trace and, on more than one occasion, has saved me from driving straight into oncoming traffic.


Dangerous Situation Caused by Lazy Flagger This Week

An incident this week shows just how important construction flaggers are, and how things can go wrong quickly when they're not effectively doing their job.

While driving home from work on Tuesday I came across a construction zone on West Cedar Street in Poughkeepsie. A new rail trail is being built near Marist College that includes a new bridge on Fulton Street, as well as an intersection that cuts through West Cedar.

This week, new curbs are being installed on West Cedar and crews are out there working, so traffic is being alternated in both directions at the trail. As I approached with my vehicle I came upon a flagger who was standing on the side of the road waving a red flag. I slowed my vehicle and saw that there were construction cones lined up directly in the middle of the road. Nothing was blocking off either side of the road, there were just cones placed directly along the traffic stripe.

I've run into situations like this before and assumed that the cones were there simply to slow down traffic. I looked at the flagger and he stepped to the side and nodded for me to proceed, so I stayed in my lane and drove forward. Immediately I knew that this was a mistake.


Flagger Really Messed Up

It turns out that the curb on the westbound side of the road I was driving on was completely removed, something that I was only able to see as I was already driving on it. I suddenly found myself riding on a narrow lane with a steep cliff on one side that my car could easily fall off.

There was no cone in front of the lane to show drivers that they needed to use the other side of the road, most likely because THAT WAS THE FLAGGER'S JOB. But because he was standing off to the side of the road and lazily just waving me ahead, there was nothing to alert people to stay to the left.

As I made it through the construction zone I watched through my rearview mirror and saw the flagger lazily waving another car through and that driver did exactly what I did. Suddenly, the flagger on the other side of the construction area started yelling at me, and then realized what was happening with the other flagger and turned his attention towards him.

Hopefully, he was able to motivate the other flagger to take his job a bit more seriously and realize that no one approaching the construction zone had any idea what was going on or where to go. That's the whole reason they pay the flagger to be there.


This Isn't an Isolated Incident

After discussing the situation on the air, we received dozens of calls from listeners who have also found themselves in similar situations. We even heard from flaggers who have worked at construction zones and seen their fellow workers doing the same thing.

The advice they give, and that I will now follow, is to never trust the flagger to know what's going on even if they tell you to proceed. Take an extra moment or two to assess the situation yourself and, if you're still not sure, roll down the window and ask for clarification.  It may save you from getting directed towards disaster.

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