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Construction Zone Signs for Traffic Channelization

Construction zone safety is an important issue for both construction workers and motorists.  According to statistics from the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration), there were 720 people killed in highway work zones in the year 2008.  When you take into account fatalities that occurred in work zones that were not on highways, this number is even higher.  Although only 15% of these deaths involved construction workers, death by motorist is still a significant occupational threat for construction workers.  The main way to improve the safety of these areas for both workers and drivers is by using effective construction zone signs.

According to many studies commissioned by the FHWA, the two most effective ways to reduce crashes in these areas are by managing driver speed and by managing the space between vehicles.  The right signs are the best way to achieve success in both of these areas.  In addition, it is important to reduce driver stress in these zones by reducing delays and getting vehicles through the construction zone in as streamlined a process as possible.

Studies conducted by the Wyoming DOT (Department of Transportation) have found that crashes can occur while drivers are changing lanes, while flagging is present, and at all times of the day and night.  These researchers concluded that the most effective way to reduce crashes was by planning how to control the traffic before starting the project.  The most effective forms of traffic control involved rerouting the oncoming traffic with adequate detour signs well before the construction area.  In cases where detours were not possible, the researchers said that it was important not to force merges that could have a bottleneck effect on the traffic.  To avoid this, they suggested using signs signifying lane closures at least 1.5 miles prior to the construction area. 

Other studies have analyzed the effects of certain signs on certain drivers.  For example, one 1995 study found that drivers responded better to signs with representational images than to signs with abstract symbols.  To ensure construction zone safety, planners should ensure that they have notified the drivers of any upcoming issues.  They should ensure that they have adequately posted construction zone signs that urge drivers to reduce their speeds and change lanes when necessary.  Flexible delineators or reboundable markers should be used to effectively divide lanes or show available routes. Adherence to these ideas can be a life or death issue for both drivers and construction workers.