As we move through 2019 the increase in passenger vehicle miles driven continues its growth from its 2011 most recent low, along with the increase in miles driven we have seen increases in road fatalities and construction zone fatalities. WorkZone fatalities across the United States have grown from a low in 2010 of 586 to 799 in 2017.
Work zone crashes are not only a problem for the motoring public, they are a significant risk for our contractors road work crews who are at risk of serious injury or fatality when impacted by errant vehicles intruding into their workplace.
Reality today is that people are pressed for time, we are continually distracted; customers, bosses, co-workers, kids, everyone is constantly demanding our time, whether we are behind the wheel or not, the person demanding our time doesn’t know and probably doesn’t care.
Why does the road safety industry believe that the travelling public truly understands the risks involved in distracted driving and the increase in these risks in work zones? We in the industry understand these risks too well, unfortunately these risks are the reason we all work in the industry.
However, Jane Q Public, whose business is not road safety, has no reason to understand the risks of calling her customers while driving in heavy traffic through a work zone. she’s focused on the specifics of closing a deal, or getting to the meeting on time.
The National Work Zone Awareness Week gives us many initiatives, ‘Give us a brake or Slow Down, we have families too’, ‘Cones Galore’, ‘Work Zone Safety is in your hands’ and several others across the US and Canada. These efforts have been trying to create publicity with the general public to slow down and respect work zones for some time, yet we continue to see too many accidents, injuries and fatalities in work zones.
I support all activities that can increase the safety on our roads and in our work zones. Unfortunately, the data and human nature tell us we must do more.
FHWA data tells us that we have a work zone accident every 5.4 minutes, which result in 70 injuries per day and 12 deaths per week. (This is 2015 data)
Until 100% of the vehicle fleet reaches level 5 automation, self-driving, we will never eliminate these accidents, we CAN reduce the severity of these accidents. Can we wait decades for automation to remove human error?
Why isn’t more positive protection being used in work zones?
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, Part 6, says a long term Temporary Traffic Control Zone is more than 3 days. “At long term stationary TTC zones, there is ample time to install and realise benefits from the full range of TTC procedures and devices that are available for use. Generally, larger channelizing devices, temporary roadways and temporary traffic barriers are used.”
Why are we using ‘larger channelizing devices’? These offer no additional protection for either the construction worker or the motorist who makes a mistake while driving. Why aren’t we using more temporary roadways (road diversions for construction) or temporary traffic barriers, both of which create positive protection?
The penalty for the motorist or construction worker when a driver simply makes a mistake should not be death or serious injury.