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This Is What Happens If You Hit a Construction Barrel (Hint: Don’t Do It)

We’ve all contended with a construction zone on a long road trip. Keeping your vehicle within the narrow channels between construction cones and barrels can be challenging, especially if you’re driving or towing a large RV. 

The running concern is that you might hit one of these construction barrels. Do you ever wonder what would happen if you did collide with one? You’ve probably seen movie scenes where a car crashes into a barrel and water splashes into the air. Does that even happen? Read on to explore the possibilities. 

What Are Construction Barrels Made Of?

Modern-day construction barrels are hard plastic (or polyethylene), but they haven’t always been. Until the late ’80s, construction barrels were 55-gallon metal drums. They had orange and white stripes and were full of sand or water to keep them in place should wind or a tap from a passing vehicle try to knock them over. 

Construction barrels on road
Hitting a construction barrel can do some damage to your vehicle.

What Are Construction Barrels Filled With?

Today, the barrels on the side of the road are hollow. They use slivers of recycled tires to hold them in place through wind or bad weather. They certainly won’t hold up to a full-speed collision with a car or truck. Though their material isn’t as sturdy, modern construction barrels are safer for drivers who might stray off course. 

How Much Does a Construction Barrel Weigh? 

Construction barrels can stand up to stiff wind or passing vehicles, but they are also light enough to give way if you hit them. The barrels weigh about 20 to 25 pounds. The rubber stabilizer at the bottom of the barrels weighs anywhere from 25 to 30 pounds. 

Altogether, orange construction barrels weigh about 50 to 60 pounds. Though they give way when hit, they have some weight to them. Knocking one out of place would take quite a bit of force. 

Pro Tip: Driving through construction can be stressful! Keep calm and use these 10 Simple Ways to Make RV Driving Days Not Suck.

What Can Happen If You Hit a Construction Barrel? 

A few things could happen if you hit a construction barrel. All of them have much to do with the way you hit the barrel. If you clip one with your vehicle, you’re likely to lose your side mirror or leave a nasty black scuff mark down the side of your car. 

Construction barrel causes $1,600 worth of damage to man's car

If you run head-on into a construction barrel, it could dent your fender or fly up and cause damage to your windshield. A man told a news channel in Cape Coral, Florida, that a barrel without a rubber anchor blew into the middle of a road during a storm one night, and he hit it relatively hard. The collision with the barrel cost him over $1,600 in repairs.

While these orange barrels have been upgraded over the years to be safer, striking one can still cause slight to significant damage to your vehicle. Worse, it could cause you to swerve and cause an accident.

Pro Tip: Swerving to miss a stray construction barrel isn’t the only thing that can cause an accident. We reveal the 5 Most Common Causes of RV Accidents (and How to Avoid Them).

What Are the Rules for Driving Through a Construction Zone?

Driving through a construction zone is often a dangerous thing, and there are many rules, depending on where you are at the time. Pay close attention to what the orange and black signs tell you as you drive. 

The number one rule is to SLOW DOWN. Construction sites always have reduced speed limits. These limits are in place to not only protect the workers on the ground but also drivers. Roads under construction have new dips, turns, and bumps that likely won’t support the regular speed limit for that stretch of road.

Always pay attention to workers or people who may be directing traffic for guidance on where and how to drive safely. Give the vehicle in front of you more space than you usually would. Don’t wait until the last minute to merge and maintain your lane throughout the construction zone. 

Can You Be Fined for Hitting a Construction Barrel?

You certainly could receive a fine for hitting a construction barrel, especially if workers are present. However, whether trouble follows your collision with a construction barrel has more to do with the circumstances surrounding the hit. 

Trucks driving on highway next to construction barrels
If you hit a construction barrel, you may receive a fine.

If you hit the barrel because you had too much to drink at dinner, you could get into real trouble. You could also be charged with reckless driving or fined for speeding if you hit a construction barrel. 

Pro Tip: Construction barrels aren’t the only things to keep an eye out for while on an RV road trip. Learn more about What Is a Runaway Truck Ramp?

Can Driving Over a Cone Damage Your Car? 

Little orange cones can do a number on the underbelly of your vehicle if you drive over one. It’s best not to play around with them. Stealing orange construction cones is also highly illegal. They are expensive, and some construction companies will pursue a thief. 

It’s best to mind your manners when driving through a construction zone. If you’re not speeding through, you’re more likely to see a rogue cone in the road before hitting it. 

Remember to Drive Slow in Construction Zones

First, always obey the speed limits at the construction zones you encounter. Driving too fast makes it challenging to navigate through the work zone safely. Slowing down gives you more time to make good decisions that might save you an expensive mechanic bill. 

RV Driving Safety - Safety and Security Series Part 2

Remember that people are working in those construction zones too. Slowing down gives them a better chance to stay safe at work. You don’t want to discover what happens if you hit a construction barrel. It’s best to avoid it altogether. 

Have you had an encounter with a traffic cone or construction barrel? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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David Moore

Thursday 13th of April 2023

Since you asked, I will let you know if you hit a construction barrel in the State of Arkansas and a Law Enforcement Officer witnesses it you will receive a fine. When driving into construction areas remember to slow down and pay attention to your surroundings that doesn't mean playing with your phone or your radio or trying to dig something out of your cooler. In Tennessee, it is a State Law you have to use a hands-free device when conversing on your cell phone. If you are in a Construction Zone in Arkansas state law prohibits you from using your cell phone in that construction zone or in a school zone. You will get a hefty ticket if caught in either area. I bumped a barrel with my semi-trailer one night as it was in the lane of travel. It just scooted over to the concert K rail out of the lane. A fellow driver hit a barrel in the road construction and they had to replace the fibreglass hood as it messed it up badly. He didn't get a ticket but he did get charged by the company with a preventative accident.

Mortons on the Move

Sunday 16th of April 2023

Great information! Best not to ever hit one.

Gil Morales

Thursday 13th of April 2023

The semi truck in front of me clipped the barrel, and it immediately stood up in the middle of my lane. I knew not to swerve so I hit it square on. I am very thankful for having a steel belly plate covering the lower part of my engine compartment. The barrel was plastic, and crushed then went underneath my class C and stopped wedged on the rear axle. Very minor damage to the front bumper, and was able to remove the barrel by jacking up the rear of my class C and pulling the barrel out.

Mortons on the Move

Monday 24th of April 2023

Yikes!!

Sam

Thursday 13th of April 2023

The concrete barriers is what I worry about, would do a lot of damage to my fiberglass motorhome. And it hard to slow down when a simi is behind you, he is trying to make time for his delivery. Hate to see you get your Amazon delivery a day late.