Raising awareness of safety in highway work zones is a global issue, and various initiatives highlight this as Patrick Smith reports
So seriously is work zone safety taken in the United States that each year since 1999 a special week has been set aside to highlight it. 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 it started, 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
(ATSSA) to coordinate and sponsor the event, and other transportation partners have joined the effort, with many states hosting their own awareness events.
The FHWA has also developed the National Highway Work Zone Safety Program with the aim of enhancing safety and operational efficiency of highway work zones for highway users (motorists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, including the elderly highway users) and highway workers. It consists of four components: standardisation, compliance, evaluation and implementation.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association
Transportation Development Foundation's (ARTBA-TDF) recognises public and private US transportation organisations with Roadway Work Zone Safety Awareness Awards, a competition that recognises outstanding efforts to create public awareness and provide employee training to help reduce roadway work zone accidents, injuries and fatalities.
And ATSSA also recognised safety efforts with its Innovation Awards, the top three places going to products from Impact Recovery Systems
Impact Recovery Systems' Omniped/Solestrian centreline pedestrian sign provides a four-sided message display area for increased pedestrian safety and features a solar option for two-way illumination of the stop or yield portions of the sign while Telegra's LED Variable Speed Matrix product with multiple power options is said to deliver crisp vehicle speed alerts with state-of-the-art accuracy to maintain safety in school zones or on any road where excessive speed creates a hazard. A trailer-mounted version for work zones is also available.
Canadian company Versilis offered its FHWA-approved SwiftGate remotely-controlled lane closure system, which enables lane closures to be completed safely and efficiently "in less than five minutes." The SwiftGate system comprises a series of easily installed solar-powered modules, which are independent of any wiring for ease of installation or relocation. Each module is made of a pivoting gate or sign, a solar panel and a control box, while gates can vary in length and can be adapted with traffic signs and/or flashing lights.
Statistics suggest all the initiatives are having a positive effect on safety.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, the number of work zone fatalities has decreased in the US every year since 2002. Data shows that in 2008, 720 workers and motorists were killed in highway work zones (a 39% decrease from 2002, when 1,186 work zone fatalities occurred) and more than 40,000 were injured: 85% of those killed in work zones are drivers or their passengers.
The FHWA's many work zone safety and mobility resource (www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz
) include a collection of work zone best practices and a series of fact sheets on state work zone safety initiatives.
Another product to help tackle the global growth of road death and injury comes from EuroRAP
, the European Road Assessment Programme, which has launched an update of the Road Safety Toolkit (www.toolkit.irap.org
EuroRAP director, Dr Joanne Hill, said the Toolkit will be vital during the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, providing free information on the causes and prevention of serious road crashes.
It is designed to help engineers, planners and policy makers from around the world develop safety plans for all road users, Dr Hill said.
It is based on decades of safety research, provides safety advice relating to car occupants, motorcyclists, pedestrians, bicyclists, heavy vehicle occupants and public transport users.
While adopted by EuroRAP, the Toolkit is an initiative of iRAP, the International Road Assessment Programme, and is the result of collaboration with the Global Transport Knowledge Partnership
(gTKP) and the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility. ARRB Group
, a leading non-profit road research provider, gave expert advice during the Toolkit's development.
Other organisations also offer advice on work zone safety, and many companies, such as those mentioned, are constantly introducing new products to make highway work zones even safer.
According to New Zealand company 3i Innovation
, negotiating a curve is the most common vehicle manoeuvre resulting in a fatal crash, and this is heightened at night when a vehicle's headlights only provide limited visibility through a corner. There is a higher risk potential in and around work zones.
3i Workzone System offers a complementary solution to alert drivers when entering a sensitive traffic area.
"An alerted driver will travel at a slower speed and will drive with greater awareness. This fact will reduce the number of accidents and save lives," says 3i Innovation.
Its Workzone System is a temporary warning device using in-pavement markers and/or impact recovery posts. The warning system is placed up to 500m before entering a work zone and guides traffic around the construction or work area. The combination of markers and posts effectively alerts and guides by providing a visible lane demarcation. After construction has been completed the system is simply rolled up and reinstated at the next location.
"Since active delineators do not rely on a vehicle's headlights, they are visible at great distance whatever the curvature of the roadway. Unlike hardwired systems, the 3i system can operate without the limitation of voltage drops and current losses. The use of the latest LED technology means low power consumption and high intensity light output. This equates to excellent visibility in heavy rain and fog conditions." High visibility is also claimed for Avery Dennison
's OmniCube reflective sheeting, which offers higher reflectivity for road signage. The new full-cube sheeting is said to be easier for drivers to see and suits duties in an array of safety applications. Featuring intelligent cube technology it makes it easier for drivers to see and read traffic signs because more light is reflected back from the vehicle headlights (the OmniCube full-cube prisms return approximately 60% of available light back to the driver).
Another product, shortlisted for an Intertraffic Innovation Award in the safety category at this year's event in Amsterdam, is an impact and tilt-activated safety device that warns roadway workers and errant vehicle drivers simultaneously to help prevent crashes, injuries and fatalities.
The SonoBlaster work zone intrusion alarm from Transpo
Industries is mounted onto barricades, cones, drums and delineators, and sounds a 125dB audible alarm when triggered by errant vehicles in work zones.
The rapidly installed (and removed) RoadQuake temporary portable rumble strip, from Plastic Safety Systems
, is an innovative, effective traffic safety countermeasure, designed to save lives in work zones.
Drivers crossing the transverse rumble strip feel a significant bump and vibration and hear an audible alert. Most drivers will react to the vibratory and audible warnings by driving more cautiously and with more awareness.
Meanwhile, German manufacturer of traffic technology products Peter Berghaus
says the addition of the MPB 3400 to its product range offers a further mobile traffic light system.
The standard version of the new traffic light system has a radio, cable or quartz-controlled system controlling vehicle-actuated alternating one-way traffic, T-junctions or crossroads traffic at construction sites and road works.
In each case, the signal heads are identical in design, and each traffic light can be adjusted to the signal head as transmitter or receiver (up to three receivers are possible in technical terms).
"Four traffic lights can be used, for example, to control two congestion points in two physically separated places. If necessary, T-junction or crossroads traffic can also be controlled by combining signal heads," says Berghaus.
Directional radar detectors which are a standard-feature for vehicle-actuated traffic control systems can also be used for special applications, for example, for continuous red with green on request; as automatic control at construction site exits or for guiding local public transport in the opposite direction to one-way traffic through roadworks.
The MPB 3400 can, on request, be equipped with LED technology from the works or this can be retrofitted later.
Work zone monitoring is among the applications for Citilog
's XCam-i field-deployable video sensor for real-time traffic automatic incident detection (AID) and congestion warnings.
The company says the video sensor is an ideal solution for enhancing new and existing closed circuit television (CCTV) deployments, providing a method to expand or enhance such deployments with a low-cost option to maximise field-of-view coverage at all times.
"Pan-Tilt-Zoom CCTV cameras often change views, potentially leaving exposed areas lacking coverage, but XCam-i allows CCTV cameras to maintain their presence at their primary viewpoints because it can be deployed to cover secondary views in a low-cost fashion," says Citilog.
"XCam-i can also serve as an ideal solution to deploy in remote areas where power and communications infrastructures are limited or unavailable thus providing a truly low-cost way to expand AID to remote areas.
"The XCam-i is a valuable asset for applications such as hard shoulder monitoring, dynamic emergency lane and work zone monitoring. It enhances the performance of highway patrols on sensitive stretches of road." At an operations centre, XCam-i enables triggered alarms and on-screen highlighting (audible and visual) of incidents within a few seconds, and it enables digital recording files thus permitting rapid identification of an incident. A digital video database of incident sequences provides a true account and record of road incidents.
MARS cone-laying system
A new automatic cone laying and removal system, designed to provide total safety for highways operatives, is to be demonstrated for the first time in the UK.
The Mobile Automatic Roadblock System (MARS) has been developed by Dutch designers and manufacturers, Trafiq, and is being operated during highways maintenance work on Amsterdam’s A9 and A10 motorways.
It will be seen in action at what organisers say will be the UK’s premier highways exhibition and conference in 2010, Seeing is Believing (www.sib.uk.net), being held from 9-11 November, 2010, at the Nuneaton, County Warwickshire, England, headquarters of MIRA, a leading independent provider of product engineering, testing, consultancy, certification, research and information.
“Dangerous working situations are always under the spotlight throughout Europe, and MARS has been developed to offer a total solution. Not only is all the laying and removal of traffic cones carried out automatically by the driver/operator safely in the cab, but this also means highways workers are protected from traffic exhaust fumes as well as their close proximity, often at high speeds,” says Peter van Nes of Trafiq.
MARS automatically places as rumble strip, a light arrow and an attenuator as well as the miles of cones, and then automatically, safely and efficiently removes them.
Substantial cost savings, compared to conventional and labour-intensive systems, can be achieved through one or two-man operation of the system, from within the vehicle cab, combined with speed of operation and the ability to plan routes for maximum efficiency.
Peter Jan Hendricks, director of T & M, the traffic management company involved in the highways maintenance work on the A9 and A10, says: “We are constantly looking at ways to improve out working procedures. The speed and safety aspects demonstrated by the MARS system far exceeded our expectations.”