Work Zones with Pilot Cars

What is a Pilot Car led Work Zone?

A pilot car leads motorists through a complex work zone. Pilot cars are specially marked so you can tell them apart from other construction vehicles.

Why are Pilot Cars Used?

Pilot cars are used in long, one-way work zones to help traffic get through safely. The more crossroads, lane changes, equipment crossings, and other obstacles in the work zone, the more beneficial the pilot car is to safely guide traffic.

How does a Pilot Car Work?

A pilot car continuously drives back and forth through a work zone. All traffic in the work zone should ONLY follow the pilot car. The pilot car driver:

  • Will not start a trip through the work zone until it is safe to do so; 
  • Knows which lanes to use;
  • Maintains a safe speed;
  • Coordinates with construction equipment and haul trucks; and
  • Pulls off the road at the end of a work zone to allow traffic to continue on their way.

 What should I do when approaching the work zone?

At each end of the work zone, a flagger will stop traffic until the pilot car is ready to lead vehicles through the work zone. Traffic should follow the pilot car until it pulls off the road at the end of the work zone. Follow the pilot car no matter which lane it uses. 

What should I do when entering the middle of a work zone from a driveway or crossroad?

Follow these two rules to stay safe:

  • WAIT until the pilot car is going your direction and get in the line of vehicles.
  • Always FOLLOW, never go the opposite way of the pilot car.

If you proceed without waiting or go the opposite way,  you may find yourself in the path of oncoming traffic or construction equipment.

Crossroads and some driveways will have a “pilot car” sign to indicate a pilot car is in use. These signs will be covered or laid down when the work zone is not active. If you see the sign, WAIT to follow the pilot car. Busy crossroads may even have a flagger to help direct traffic. The flagger will indicate when it is safe to proceed and in which direction.  If you wish to go the other way, simply wait until the pilot car’s return trip. 

How long will my wait be?

Your wait will depend on the length of the work zone and the round trip travel time for the pilot car. Longer work zones may have wait times as long as 20 minutes, but most wait times are much shorter. The average is 5-10 minutes. 

  • Tip:  If you are at a cross street, use your turn signal to indicate to the pilot car driver, flaggers, and other motorists which way you intend to go. Cars that wish to go the other way from the crossroad may want to pass you if the pilot car is going in their direction. Using your turn signal is a courteous way to help others pass safely while you wait for the pilot car to return going your direction.