My road is closed for construction. You can tell, because there’s a big ROAD CLOSED sign at the last open intersection. There’s also a big flashing electronic sign that tells you that the next intersection really is closed, because there’s a bit of a hill and you can’t see it from the first ROAD CLOSED sign.

No one seems to believe any of it.

If all of the barriers are up, drivers will sit for the longest time in front of it, perhaps hoping the concrete structures will understand their plight and move themselves out of the way. If one of the barriers has been moved aside so the gravel trucks can get through, people will drive into the live construction zone, even though you can clearly see the road isn’t open on the other side, and that there are workers and huge pieces of equipment moving around in the area.

Now, I will concede that sometimes, even though the sign says ROAD CLOSED, it really isn’t. And once or twice, I have also driven past a ROAD CLOSED sign to see if the road really is shut down.

But I’ve always tried to be sensible about it. If there’s a live construction zone, and there isn’t a flagman to guide me through, then I stay the hell out. If there’s a flagman, then workers know that cars will be coming past them. But if there isn’t, and the ROAD CLOSED signs are up in the middle of the road, then they aren’t necessarily watching for you. They may walk out into your path, or back a loader out in front of you, or swing around a boom that almost takes out your windshield, as happened to a driver last week who thought he could squeeze through.

If there’s a chance I’m going to get hopelessly stuck, then I don’t risk it. I still can’t figure out why two drivers this week went past the ROAD CLOSED sign pulling trailers they couldn’t back up. One of them, with a work truck and landscaping trailer, took fifteen minutes and some thirty manoeuvres before he got out. The other, pulling a little utility trailer behind his SUV, got out, unhitched it, turned it around by hand, turned his vehicle around, and hooked the trailer back up so he could go out the way he came in.

And there are a lot of people who really need to learn the three-point turn, including a woman who put her SUV into Reverse, hit the throttle hard, and then whacked my mailbox with equal velocity. It’s a pretty sturdy unit, and so I traded off her glancing guiltily at me and scurrying away from the tilted mailbox, against the enormous dent that covered half her liftgate.

Bottom line: they don’t put up the signs for the hell of it. Road construction is an annoyance for drivers, but it can be a dangerous—and even deadly—situation for the workers. When people are working on the road, slow down. If the flagman tells you to stop, obey him. And if the sign says ROAD CLOSED, well, maybe they really do mean it.