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 “Work Zone Safety: We’re All In This Together.”
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 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 Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), Texas has seen a decline in work zone fatalities for two consecutive years because of increased safety measures and public outreach efforts. While work zone fatalities and crashes have declined significantly, there is still work to do.
- Four out of every five work zone fatalities are motorists traveling through the work zone.
- Forty-five percent of all work zone fatalities for 2010 were 35 years old or younger.
- In 2010, 61 percent of work zone fatalities were male.
- Of the 100 work zone fatalities in 2010, 54 were drug and alcohol-related.
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 also maintains the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, which is the largest online resource for roadway construction safety. 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 articles, research publications, training courses, videos, and safety products,” 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 service or post a question on our clearinghouse listserv.”
Since the site went online in 1998, the clearinghouse has assisted more than 1.3 million users from every state and 33 countries with a variety of topics related to safety issues in work zones.
“Certainly the decreased in work zone fatalities is encouraging,” says Ullman. “We have all come together to make a real difference in continuing to make work zones safer.”