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Is Hitting a Construction Cone Illegal While Driving?

The telltale thump when you hit a construction cone is the first sign of a problem. The areas marked off by these devices usually mean a hazard for drivers.

Besides damage to your vehicle, there are other issues you’ll run into. After all, roadwork areas have strict rules and higher fines. 

Whether or not hitting a construction cone is illegal, you may end up with more than you bargained for. 

Let’s find out!

About Traffic Cones and Barrels

Before the 1940s, traffic hazards were marked off using wooden barriers. A pain to assemble and store, they were frequently damaged by drivers. For one road painter in Los Angeles, the issue reached a head in 1940. 

Charles Scanlon got tired of tread marks through his “yield” signs and decided to do something about it. He aimed to create a visible, easily deployed, stackable object that wouldn’t hurt cars if struck. After initial designs, he patented the rubber traffic cone in 1943. It seems like Scanlon was onto something. 

By 1947, his design was everywhere. From roadsides to your “bad” cousin’s bedroom, they make the road safer for all users. Now, you can barely leave the house without seeing one. 

One man in the UK loves traffic cones so much he has a collection of over 137 unique variations. He has two-thirds of all the designs, along with a Guinness World Record.

They even make types to include in travel emergency kits. Collapsible versions make changing a tire on the highway safer. If you’re a regular traveler, keep one or two in your trunk! 

What Are Traffic Cones Made Of?

Scanlon’s initial design included rubber because he wanted a product that was hard to damage. In recent years, manufacturers have begun using PVC plastic for manufacturing cones. In most cases, they include a brightly colored top portion with a heavier base made of plastic. 

Using recycled plastics, these traffic control devices are an economical way to control the flow of people and cars. For added safety, some include highly reflective tape to raise night visibility. 

Putting out traffic cone
Slow down and drive cautiously when you see traffic cones.

What Happens If You Hit a Construction Cone?

Construction cones come in many sizes. The smallest are only six inches tall and wouldn’t impact your car significantly. However, federal guidelines specify the types you’ll see on roadways. The standard must be at least 18”, whereas the ones on the highway must be 28” tall. 

The larger it is, the more significant the impact on your vehicle. Most of these include a heavy base, so hitting one at speed causes problems. You might have damage to your windshield, bumper, or scratches on your car after impact. 

Beware, some roadworkers modify their cones with concrete for stability. So, slow down near road maintenance and hazardous situations. You don’t want to find out the hard way. 

Pro Tip: Know these 10 Unwritten Rules for Highway Driving before you hit the road.

How Much Does a Construction Barrel Weigh?

If you started driving in the 1970s or 1980s, construction barrels have changed. Back then, impacting a barrel meant colliding with a 55-gallon metal drum. Instead of a light tap, you could do more damage to yourself than the traffic device. 

Modern roadway barrels are made from rigid plastic, a far cry from the steel of old. They usually have slivers of recycled tires layered on the bottom for stability. Combined, they weigh between 50 and 60 pounds. Impacting one of these bad boys at speed is a whole different beast than a cone. 

What’s Inside a Traffic Barrel?

Back then, workers filled traffic barrels with sand, concrete, or water. In fact, you’ll still see much larger trashcan-style barrels filled with water on highways. Because of their weight and cost of transporting, they phased them out alongside metal construction.

These days, barrels are hollow and easily stacked for cheaper transport. It’s also much safer for motorists!

Driving through construction cones
Hitting a construction cone can come with some consequences.

Is it Illegal to Hit a Construction Cone? 

After hitting a construction cone or stealing one, looking over your shoulder is natural. That telltale orange mark on your bumper could give away your secret. In most jurisdictions, hitting a traffic device is a misdemeanor. So, while you won’t likely end up in court, you could face a fine.

Removing one from the roadway is a much bigger issue. Blocking off parking spots, meddling with safety barriers, and driving through closed streets are serious misconduct violations. Leave them where they are, or the court may hold you liable for any damages that result. 

Some states consider this type of violation a class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious type. For example, tampering with road devices in Virginia carries up to a year in jail or a $2500 fine. In severe cases, judges may enact both penalties. And if significant damage or loss of life occurs, they’ll hold you responsible. 

Should You File an Insurance Claim if You Hit a Cone?

Hitting a construction cone can seriously damage your car. And, depending on your insurance, it may not be worth filing a claim. This type of issue is what you call a collision claim in the insurance business. Going to your adjuster with a claim like this means you’re likely paying your deductible, at least. 

Anytime you file a claim, you’re also likely to see a rise in insurance premiums. The monthly cost associated with your insurance might not be worth it. However, it could be if you have a policy with accident forgiveness. Repeated issues with errant traffic devices may indicate that you’re a reckless driver. 

Pro Tip: Avoid doing any of these 5 RV Driving Habits That Make People Instantly Dislike You.

Drive Safely in Construction Zones

Bombing down the freeway, you’ve probably seen the signs; “traffic fines double.” In construction zones, cones are one way that workers keep everyone safe. Slow down when driving through these areas, and give folks the benefit of the doubt. A few minutes of inconvenience are better than damage to your car

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