Thursday, February 28, 2008

Workzone safety...

You ever stood on the side of the road and had cars going by you at 60-80 mph within feet of where you were standing? That is what it is like for those road crews and construction workers who work on a daily basis to maintain and build the highway system.

The challenge we are presented with is how to get drivers to slow down in these areas with lane closures. As stated in the recent press release the top two reasons for crashes in work zones are speeding and inattentive driving. There were more than 1,000 collisions in 2006 in work zones.
What time of day do these accidents happen? Daylight, on a clear or cloudy day (I would have expected late at night, who knew.)

What type of collision is the most common?
Rear-end collisions are the number one type of collision, a completely preventable collision. Did you know that close to 99 percent of those injured aren't the workers but are the drivers and passengers of the vehicles?

The question is what would it take to get drivers to slow down or pay attention in these workzones? We asked some drivers recently and many of said they slowed down when they entered workzones. When Troopers went out and took some sample radar speeds we discovered that many of you don't slow down. A sampling that proves to us that you know you should slow down but don't once you are out there.

Here is the idea that the legislature approved. Put cameras in the workzones. Identify the cars who are speeding through these zones and send them a warning or a ticket. We are still working out the details of how that is going to work but that is the basic concept that we are going to test this summer during the construction season.

We don't plan on doing it everywhere just yet. We want to establish a project to test it on and then report back the results to determine if it will work as a deterrent and get drivers to slow down through work zones.

What can you do?
Slow down, pay attention and merge as soon as safe to do so. Don't wait until the last minute. Remember that traffic fines double in work zones, and traffic flows much smoother when everyone gets along.

More Tips for Driving in a Work Zone:

  • Don’t do anything except drive while you’re in the work zone
  • Don’t use your cell phone
  • Don’t eat or drink
  • Don’t change CD’s or radio stations
  • Don’t tailgate! Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you

Even though these tips seem simple, if you had friends or co-workers working on the roads out there, we hope you would recommend any tips that would help drivers keep their eyes on the road.

What would you do?
What type of strategies would you implement to get drivers to slow down? How do you feel about these workzone cameras, let us know.


Anonymous said...

1st the good news. Most of the time, the flaggers in work zones are great at keeping safety, traffic flow and construction in harmony.

2 things that are really irritating though that help put motorists in a negative mood (a bad thing for all concerned).
#1 - over-zealous flaggers who stop traffic when a truck is abslutely nowhere near the intersection or repeatably stop a long line of traffic when they could bunch up the truck a little.
#2 - flaggers who swoop on unsuspecting motorists shoving their stop signs in almost arrogant confrontation with the motorist who themselves can't get from 20 to zero in less than 5 feet. These are antagonizing to the point of making your blood boil sometimes.
Great job to all those who bring good judgment to their safety work. Get rid of the few that are as much a safety risk as bad motorists because of their own attitude. M.

The Geezer said...

While anon. has some durable ideas to get flaggers to do their part, what you are suggesting here, Master Jeremy, is legislating politeness and common sense, and then bringing that to fruition in practice.

The Geez will not wait up at night waiting for this to happen, but if you do successfully execute, Geez will quit being grumpy long enuf to say "good job".

Geezer rests.

PS. I hope you don't turn in double time for working on Sunday, my pocketbook can't afford it.

The Geezer

meganc said...

I think the problem for me is that of differing perceptions. If I slow down from 60 to 45 in a work zone, I feel like I've slowed way the heck down; the flagger still feels me zooming by. I suggest recommended speed limit signs, rather than the ambiguous "slow down" or "give 'em a brake" signs. Do you want me going 20 in a residential work zone, or 10? 45 on the freeway or 30?

Anonymous said...

Yes to using camera in work zones.
Better "awareness" instruction for flaggers in the zones. These workers must understand they greatly influence driver attitudes in the zone. They get back what they give drivers. Clear
communication, eye contact, and acting like they are engaged with what is going on engender respect for flaggers. If they want to be
obeyed and effective, they have to earn it, moment to moment, and hour by hour. It's not just being's WORK !

Gayle said...

The cameras would be very good. Another thing is to have yellow flashing signs that road work is ahead before the stationery signs on the side of the road. The flashing signs could also say what speed to slow down too.

Anonymous said...

NO to enforcement cameras, on general principle. Use the police to enforce the law, that's their function and purpose. People have judgement; cameras do not.

Another factor is that work zone warning signs must reflect reality or they won't be effective. Signs that go up and stay up for months (whether or not workers are near the traffic, or indeed even present at all) just become part of the scenery and teach motorists to ignore them.

Evan said...

I'm against using any type of automated law enforcement for many reasons, including privacy concerns, erroneous radar readings without a human to throw out bad readings, and putting the burden on the registered owner of the vehicle to prove themselves innocent. WSP has adequate resources to patrol work zones, and they can catch unsafe drivers who are doing something other than speeding.

Anonymous said...

Something that works well here in the Skagit Valley for school zones and other safety-critical areas is to set up a portable radar display which shows in LARGE numbers how fast a vehicle is going, along with a speed limit sign. The public embarrassment seems to be very effective and eliminates the fines, court and other legal bureaucracy, angered drivers etc..

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I drove through a construction zone on a 40 mph section of the SR 20 Spur in Anacortes. The only message to drivers was a flagger's "SLOW" sign propped up against the tailgate of a pickup truck. No workers anywhere in sight.

As a driver, I don't know what that means I'm supposed to do. Slow from 40 to 35? to 30? Or if no workers are present do I even need to slow down at all?

If cameras are to be used for enforcement, directions to drivers need to be perfectly clear.

Anonymous said...

Try laying a vehicle on it's side in plain view and the "rubber neckers will slow us all down .. T J ...

Anonymous said...

Don’t know how to post to the blog on slowing drivers in workzones for safety, so I’ll make the suggestion here. The signs that reflect back how fast I’m going get my attention. Often I just don’t realize I’m going faster than 40 through the construction area because I drive WA-20 so often and it’s so routine.

Keep up the good work. I’m tremendously impressed with WADOT!

Anonymous said...

Flaggers have no way to communicate the speed they want drivers to travel. A slight modification to the Slow/Stop sign they hold would make it clear—add a yellow recommended speed sign below the “Slow” sign.

Anonymous said...

As a Traffic Control Flagger for over 20 years, I do know that speed is a safety issue. Cameras isn't the answer. I agree with the posting of what speed we would like travelers to go, as motorist do believe they have slowed down considerably compared to what they would normally travel. They do not take the time to think how fast it still is to someone working or standing on the side of the road. I have found what works well is to shrink the lane. You see people all the time fit into a small parking space, but shrink thier travel lane and they slow way down. Also something in the roadway slows them down. A rubber portable bump strip works well.
It is easy to get confused as to what is expected. Especially if the flagger is not paying attention to either the crew or the traffic. I don't agree with those who slack thier duty to safety by leaning against something and not paying attention and then jumping out in front of traffic with thier sign. That is very dangerous. And NOT the proper way to respond. To the general traveler, I appologize for those who do that and hope we will decourage them from continuing this unsafe act. Safe travel. Another thing to remember, always keep to the right unless you are instructed to merge or shift left.

Anonymous said...

There should definitely be more signs that post the speed limit. I think there is a shortage of speed signs everywhere not just in work zones. It is so easy to get on an unfamiliar road and not know for several miles what the speed limit is.

Garrett said...

I also would say NO! to cameras. They will not slow anybody because the camera only sees what has already happened. It is already to late at that point.

VERY clear posting of what maximum speed is expected in a construction zone, as well as a minimum speed to keep traffic moving. Most construction areas have flagger or just signs just saying slow. SLOW to what?! Slow in case I have to stop or slow because of dips on bumps in the raod or slow because the lane is narrow.

The Portable speed signs placed randomly each day in the work zone will do more to slow people down. As stated before, once you see your speed displayed for everyone else to see, generally people get embarrassed by there lack of attention. And if you want to put a WSP officer near the sign (before or after) people will react when EVERYONE including the officer see your speed.

As for narrow lanes, I believe it is a very bad idea because people focus on how close the object (wall, constriction barrow. Lane marker, ect) is to there vehicle and they over react by slamming on the brakes or going so slow that traffic builds to fast outside of the construction zone WHERE there is little or no warning that traffic is going VERY slow.

Blain said...

I agree with posting a new speed limit, but with a white sign, not a yellow sign -- change the legal limit, rather than the suggested speed. If I've got a full lane, I can handle that at the regular speed without going out of my lane -- it's what I do all the time.

If we're all moving at relatively full speed, merging at soonest opportunity makes sense. If we're going to be slowing down to a crawl, it makes sense to merge at the end, so we've got (for example) two lines a half mile long, rather than one line a mile long with individuals driving to the front of the line in not-yet-closed lane. The zipper works just fine, and can be done at a decent speed (I know someone who saw it once) if people are all trying to do it.

I'm one of those odd people who thinks that the way to encourage people to do something is to tell them what you want them to do: post the speed you want them to drive at, tell them where you want them to merge, etc. Messing with the width of the lane or other things just make me think the workers who put up the lane barriers were sloppy, which is annoying.

So that's my suggestion -- accurate and informative signing, with or without the speed monitors.

Matt said...

NO TO CAMERAS! It's just an incremental step to a Big Brother Nanny State. Those agencies and jurisdictions that resort to cameras will just widen the perception that government is out to get people....and will find reasonable people avoiding in droves.

Rise up people. Don't let the government do this to you. It's a slippery slope and will be abused if allowed to continue. Show your displeasure by contacting your legislator, DOT, Governor, and local elected officials.

Anonymous said...

I vote no for the radar cams, I think it is another way for this state to collect revenue.
I recently became aware of a D.O.T. vehicle armed with the radar camera system. I heard from a source that works for the D.O.T. that the system only takes a picture when the offender is going 71mph, when the posted speed limit in that area is 60mph. would an officer really wait till 71mph, in a construction zone, to take action? I think taking the human element out of speed control is lazy and unfair. If they are such a good thing why do we have any law enforcement for the roads. Thus the traffic officers should be worried about unemployment.

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