Roadway work zones are hazardous both for motorists who navigate through lane changes and slowed speeds and for the dedicated workers whose office is often mere feet away from moving vehicles.
Each year in April, National Work Zone Awareness Week is held to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety and mobility issues in work zones. Since 1999, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has worked with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Traffic Safety Services Association to coordinate and sponsor the event. This year’s theme is “Expect the Unexpected.”
Researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) are dedicated to improving motorist safety, worker safety and traveler mobility in all types of highway work zones. “Each year in Texas, there are approximately 15,000 crashes and more than 100 people killed in highway construction and maintenance zones,” says TTI’s Work Zone and Dynamic Signs Program Manager Jerry Ullman. “Among the leading causes are excessive speed and the failure to remain alert while driving.”
According to the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse website, in 2013 Texas lead the nation in work zone fatalities with 104, a drop from 126 in 2014.
Texas motorists encounter a large number of work zones in place across the state. One prime example of these types of efforts is the massive rebuilding effort of 90 miles of Interstate 35 through the TxDOT Waco District in central Texas. TTI researchers are working closely with TxDOT and contractors in developing ways to maximize safety and mobility within this corridor during reconstruction.
TTI is responsible for day-to-day operation and maintenance of the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse website. The Clearinghouse website is the largest online resource on roadway construction safety. Since 1998, the Clearinghouse has provided assistance to about 1.6 million users from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 34 countries around the world. The clearinghouse is a joint effort of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, FHWA and TTI.
Visitors to the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse website “are expected to find a wealth of information related to work zone safety including crash data, expert contacts, laws and regulations, safety standards, agency practices, news and research publications, training videos and programs, safety technologies and equipment, public education campaigns, materials in 6 foreign languages (Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, French, Russian and Arabic), and educational materials for new drivers,” says TTI Research Librarian Hong Yu, who maintains the website. “If they do not find what they need on our website, they can also contact us for a customized research or post a question on our clearinghouse listserv.”