Roadway work zones are some of the most dangerous places on earth. In 2018 alone, work zone collisions caused 755 fatalities — a number that included 124 workers. Every one of those deaths was tragic yet decidedly preventable.
The high prevalence of work zone fatalities is not only an issue tied to quality of life, but one of public health. Unfortunately, numerous factors contribute to these accidents, with a silver bullet yet to be found. According to 2015 research from the Federal Highway Administration, a work zone crash happens every 5.4 minutes, resulting in 70 or more injuries every day and 12 or more deaths each week.
Work zone crashes are common for a paradoxical reason. Research suggests that distracted drivers are 29 times more likely to be involved in a work zone collision (or near collision) on the highway. Work zones themselves, however, are distracting — with lane changes, bold signage, and significant impact on preexisting traffic patterns. This, combined with a lack of attention to safety signs warning drivers to reduce speed, explains why vehicles and their drivers cause most work zone fatalities.
Although drivers bear the responsibility for work zone collisions, it’s unrealistic to expect their behavior to change without additional help. We must arm drivers with both tested and proven technologies to improve safety and driver responsibility on our highways. In other words, we need to assist drivers in fulfilling their role in improving work zone safety.
Common-sense measures can improve work zone safety. This includes creating detailed traffic control plans, inspecting work zones more frequently, implementing rigorous safety protocols, improving worker training, and so on. These measures are already in place to some degree, yet work zone accidents continue to kill hundreds, keeping roadway safety a top public health priority. In addition to the personal tragedy, work zone fatalities have a pervasive impact on a large part of the transportation ecosystem — as entire roadways might be blocked off for hours and construction work could be shut down for days.
Ending work zone fatalities will require the use of more time-sensitive information from transportation agencies and law enforcement alike that’s derived from new transportation technologies. One example is replacing highly vulnerable roadside human flaggers with remote-controlled flagger devices that perform the same function (but often with greater accuracy). Another is the use of automated alarms that warn workers when a vehicle intrudes on a work zone.
The technologies above are just the tip of the work zone safety iceberg. More important than any individual safety technology will be the use of cohesive intelligent transportation systems to continuously improve safety and mobility around road construction zones. Investment in these systems is expected to reach $268.29 billion by 2027 as roadways become increasingly connected and tech-driven.
One promising countermeasure to improve safety involves sending drivers advanced warnings about upcoming work zones (and crashes, lane closures, slow traffic, low visibility, etc.) directly to their vehicles. Considering that drivers become distracted when they have to process a large amount of information at once, giving them an advanced audio warning and creating a link between their own vehicle and the actual roadway infrastructure has major potential to reduce accidents and congestion — and, ultimately, save lives.
When it comes to work zone safety, the goal is to achieve Vision Zero’s mission. This multinational network’s goal is to “eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all.” Sweden first implemented the Vision Zero strategy three decades ago, but various American cities have adopted their own versions of it.
At Kyra Solutions, we also believe work zone fatalities (and other traffic accidents) must be eliminated. This is especially true when new technology has put Vision Zero clearly within reach.
As an IT service provider for government, we’ve worked in the public transportation technology space since 2002. Our years of experience provide us with both insight and respect for work zone collisions. This insight, coupled with our Silicon Valley partnerships and our passion for safety, has driven us to create a complete end-to-end solution that was built purposely to improve roadway safety — a new intelligent transportation system.
Kyra’s IntelliExchange™, a data exchange highway performance monitoring platform, uses a suite of technology to identify hazardous roadway conditions. It then communicates critical information to traffic management systems, drivers, and other third-party users through digital signage and audio-enabled alerts directly to the driver’s vehicle.
By increasing access to vital roadway information, our intelligent transportation solution directly impacts drivers’ ability to react quickly to hazardous roadway conditions. By automating the labor-intensive work of ingesting, processing, storing, and publishing real-time roadway information, we make superior safety simple and cost-effective.
Even a single work zone fatality is one too many. Let’s work together to end them for good. Click here to see how we can reach Vision Zero together.