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FHWA Home / Safety / National Work Zone Awareness Week

8th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week (2007)

Work Zone Safety Fact Sheet

How Safe is America's Roadway System?

The U.S. roadway system's positive trends have leveled off at a 2005 fatality rate of approximately 1.46 deaths per 100 million miles of travel (down from 5.50 fatalities in 1966). However, that's still not good enough. In 2005, nearly 2.7 million people were injured and 43,443 people died on our nation's roads.

How Significant is the Work Zone Safety Problem?

With nearly a 40% increase in work zone fatalities between 1997 and 2005, work zone safety is a growing roadway safety concern. In 2005, there were 1,074 work zone fatalities; this figure represents 2.5% of all roadway fatalities for the year. Over four out of every five-work zone fatalities were motorists.

In all, in 2004, there were an estimated 115,000 (1.3% increase from 2003) work zone crashes and an estimated 49,620 (a 2.1% increase from 2003) people were injured in work zone crashes (1.8% of all roadway injuries).

Can You Put This in Perspective?

  • One work zone fatality every 8.2 hours (3 a day)
  • One work zone injury every 9 minutes (160 a day)

What is the FHWA Goal to Reduce Work Zone Fatalities?

As a safety agency dedicated to saving lives, FHWA is dedicated to reducing congestion and crashes due to work zones.

What is the FHWA Doing to Solve This National Safety Problem?

FHWA is actively pursuing improved work zone safety through a multi-faceted approach in the fields of engineering, education, enforcement, and coordination with public safety agencies (police and fire). FHWA also partners with a variety of organizations that are interested in improving roadway safety such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), State Departments of Transportation, the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA), the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Association of County Engineers (NACE), the American Public Works Association (APWA), and the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

Engineering: On the engineering front, FHWA supports research into a variety of design features that create safer work zones. The National Highway Work Zone Safety Program, sponsored and funded by FHWA, looks to improve work zone safety.Two areas that this program focuses on are standardization and evaluation.

Standardization of work zone areas is set by FHWA in both traffic control and in work zone safety devices. All national safety standards to control traffic through work zones are contained in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). FHWA has responsibility for the MUTCD, and also for the NCHRP350, which contains the federal standards and guidelines for all work zone safety devices.

Keeping national standards current with the latest technology is an ongoing process and consequently, FHWA undertook a rulemaking process to update its national guidelines regarding planning and implementing work zones. The final rule on Work Zone Safety and Mobility was published in the Federal Register on September 9, 2004 with an effective date of October 2007. The purpose of the update is to address the changing times of more traffic, more congestion, greater safety issues, and more work zones. The changes to the regulation will facilitate comprehensive consideration of the broader safety and mobility impacts of work zones across project development, and the implementation of appropriate strategies that help manage these impacts during project delivery. For instance, the new rule focuses on a policy driven approach to work zone impact management and execution by looking at projects early in the planning process and identifying those projects that will have a significant impact on travelers. It also encourages that a comprehensive assessment of work zone safety impacts be accomplished early in the design phase of a project and that appropriate strategies be used to improve work zone mobility and safety.

FHWA also researches how delays in construction of highway projects can be avoided. Through the Model Traffic Management Program, a self-evaluation guide was provided to states to identify strengths and weaknesses of their work zone activities.

In addition, FHWA funds research for long-lasting roadway materials and structures. A successful example of this type of research is the Superpave technology. This highly acclaimed asphalt technology makes asphalt pavements perform better and last longer — even under temperature extremes and heavy traffic loads. This research success is extremely important for our nation's roadways since 90% of all paved highways in the United States have asphalt pavements.

Education: FHWA is dedicated to improving public awareness and providing technical training about work zone safety through a wide array of activities such as: clearinghouse web site; training courses for federal, state, local and tribal highway engineers; conferences, CDs; guidebooks; brochures (for the general public and highway practitioners); bilingual safety public outreach materials; and press events such as National Work Zone Awareness Week (see partnership section).

The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse (www.workzonesafety.org) is an example of a successful educational outreach tool that reaches the public and the highway community.Started in 1998 by FHWA and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), this clearinghouse is the first centralized, comprehensive work zone information resource.

To help younger drivers, FHWA produced Moving Safely Across America, an interactive CD that has been distributed to 15,000 driver education teachers. Part of this CD includes information on how to safely drive through work zones. The FHWA has alsocompleted a series of materials that focuses specifically on new drivers to increase their awareness of Work Zone hazards and provides tips for safely negotiating work zones. These materialshave been designed for use by driving instructors and parents in their critical roles in the training of new drivers. These materials are packaged as the "Turning Point" campaign being developed through a contract with ARTBA. The content includes a safety video, and interactive training tool, a resources library for trainers, an instructor's guide, promotional materials, and a website. Innovative materialssuch as the interactive training tool which puts new drivers behindthe wheel in work zones is expected to get widespread use by computer savvy teens. It is expected that 5,000 toolkits with the campaign materials developed in this project are being distributed to driving instructors and DOTs.

FHWA provides work zone training courses for highway engineers. Also, for the technical highway safety community, FHWA distributes a Best Practices Guidebook (available at http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/workzone.htm or on a CD),that highlights good work zone practices of state transportation agencies throughout the United States, and Quickzone, a software decision making tool that helps engineers improve work zone safety and mobility.

Finally, FHWA has a database on recent work zone-related research, development and technology transfer. This compendium is updated on a regular basis to provide roadway engineers with the newest research and is available on CD.

Enforcement: As part of our comprehensive safety program, FHWA engineers work closely with state highway engineers and law enforcement officials to identify appropriate engineering safety countermeasures for high risk locations and for new roads.

FHWA also works with the enforcement community, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), regarding the effective use of uniformed police officers on federal-aid highways. FHWA additionally works with emergency medical services, police and fire organizations to ensure that public safety is maintained at high levels and access for emergency vehicles is possible during work zone operations.

Finally, speed enforcement is a safety concern in work zones and law enforcement can't be located at every single work zone in the United States. FHWA is funding research for a Variable Speed Limits (VSL) Demonstration Project in Maryland work zones. The VSL technology determines appropriate speeds for work zones and changes them when conditions changes.This demonstration project will analyze variations in speed and accompanying driver behavior (i.e. abruptly hitting the brakes). Similar projects funded by FHWA are underway in Michigan and Virginia.

Partnership Activities: FHWA believes that partnerships create synergy and are very important to improving work zone safety. FHWA is one of the founding partners of the annual National Work Zone Awareness Week held every year in April. Through a large network of government and industry partners, including the other two founding partners AASHTO and ATSSA, this week of national, state and local public activities seeks to raise public consciousness about the need for driving safely in work zones.

FHWA and ATSSA partnered to develop the Basic Traffic Control for Utility Operations manual, which provides a quick reference to utility companies working temporary traffic control. It includes guidelines regarding accessibility for individual with disabilities which are in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

FHWA is also a partner in the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). The goal is to reduce the annual number of highway deaths by 9,000 by 2008 to a rate of 1.0 (down from the current rate of 1.5). This will be accomplished through improved safety in 22 key areas concerning infrastructure, vehicles, drivers, and emergency medical services. FHWA's role is that of providing national leadership, direction, and the development and demonstration of new safety innovations, technologies, and programs. (For more information, go to: http://safety.transportation.org.)

Who Is Responsible for Work Zone Safety?

Everyone. We all are responsible for driving, walking, and biking, safely through work zones. The engineers and planners have the responsibility to make sure the work zone is designed and operating properly -- with safety in mind. Drivers and pedestrians have the responsibility to always be alert and obey the traffic laws. Passengers should always buckle up and act responsibly. The police and the courts have the responsibility to make sure that the traffic and work zone laws are enforced. Public safety agencies have the responsibility of responding to and securing crash locations and enforcing traffic laws. Local communities and county and state governments need to allocate funding for safe roads and increase public awareness about work zone safety. Everyone should take responsibility for work zone safety.

10 Tips for Driving Safely in Work Zones


Page last modified on December 10, 2014.
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