This week is National Work Zone Awareness Week across the United States from April 15-19, 2013. In last week’s blog article, we reviewed some of the safety measures DOTs have implemented into order to create awareness of safety issues in work zones. This week we will review what drivers and the public can do to maintain high safety standards when in work zones.
Driving safely in a work zone is important not only for the workers, but also for drivers moving through it. Statistics from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) show that about 10-15% of work zone fatalities are workers, which means that about 85-90% are drivers and passengers.
Work zones can be difficult to maneuver through as they are all different and pose many challenges for drivers. There can be closed or narrowed lanes with cement barriers, abrupt stops, changes in traffic patterns, uneven road surfaces, and construction equipment and workers on-site. All of these factors increase the danger of driving and create stress for the driver.
“As highway construction shifts into high gear, we’re asking all Americans to take roadway safety seriously and protect themselves and their passengers by paying attention and slowing down when driving through work zones,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “In April and year round, the men and women working to improve our nation’s highways and bridges deserve to do their work safely.”
The FHWA has made a list of 10 tips for driving through work zones and stress the importance of taking your time rather than barreling through these areas:
- Expect the unexpected: Traffic lanes may be closed, narrowed, or shifted, and people may be working on or near the road. There could be debris, unpaved road surfaces or even pot holes so drive cautiously.
- Slow down: Speeding is one of the major causes of work zone crashes; obey posted speed limits. In many states/provinces, there are additional fines for speeding in work zones or when workers are present.
- Don’t tailgate: The most common crash in a highway work zone is the rear end collision. There are changes in traffic flow as well as the possibility for abrupt stopping.
- Keep a safe distance from workers and their equipment: Enough space has been created on the highway to safely pass through the work zone, so maintain a safe distance and drive carefully.
- Pay attention to the signs: The warning signs (typically orange) are there to help drivers move safely through the work zone.
- Obey flaggers: The flagger knows what is best for moving traffic safely and what obstacles are further down the road.
- Stay alert and minimize distractions: Dedicate your full attention to the roadway. Don’t even think about checking your mobile device!
- Keep up with the flow of traffic: Drivers can help maintain traffic flow and posted speeds by merging smoothly. Try not to be a “rubber necker” and stay consistent with other vehicles.
- Schedule enough time to drive safely: Expect delays and leave early. Check the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse for information on work zones throughout the country.
- Be patient and stay calm: Remember, the work zone means improvements to the road that will improve your drive and infrastructure in the future.
Most of these are common sense, however, when drivers are in a hurry or stressed, it can be easy to forget these simple safety tips. Although the Awareness Week is a United States initiative, these tips translate to all countries.
Safety in Traffic Data Collection
Proceeding with caution in work zones is extremely important in preventing any accidents, but there will always be the potential for dangerous situations. Eliminating risks for workers is the most effective way to prevent any injuries or fatalities. There have been numerous reports of close calls, injuries and deaths of road workers in the road way.
One simple method to eliminate road workers entering the road way is with non-intrusive traffic data collection such as video or radar-based systems. This can replace the on-road deployment required by road tubes and removes the need for having manual counters at the roadside, which can still pose a safety hazard while on shoulders or sidewalks.
Miovision’s automated system, the Scout Video Collection Unit, is a non-intrusive method to collection traffic data. Without entering the road way, field technicians can easily setup the Scout unit to collect traffic data for Intersection Counts, Road and Highway Volumes, and as well as other types of traffic data.
If you’re interested in the Scout Video Collection Units deployment process and how it can benefit your count programs, sign up for our monthly demonstration webinar.