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FHWA Home / Safety / The Use of Uniformed Police Officers - Table of Contents

The Use of Uniformed Police Officers - IX. Summary of General Comments

Report of Findings [FHWA Docket No. FHWA-1999-5387]

IX. Summary of General Comments

Twenty-five responses were received including general comments that did not specifically address the survey questions. A summary of those comments is provided within this section.

Highway Industry Associations

Ten highway industry associations filed general comments. Eight of the comments were strongly supportive of the use of uniformed police officers on Federal-aid highway construction projects, while two primarily addressed issues of study methodology. The comments are summarized below.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials: AASHTO submitted its policy resolution on "The Use of Law Enforcement in Work Zones," dated November 16, 1997, which reads, "State highway agencies should maintain the flexibility and eligibility to use Federal-aid highway funds to fund law enforcement personnel within work zones."

American Automobile Association: "...With the passage of the Transportation Equity Act of 1998 (TEA-21), legislation which AAA strongly supported, Federal-aid highway projects are proliferating throughout the country. This increased activity underscores the need to actively assess all relevant responses to the safety problems associated with work zone areas.... It has been our experience that uniformed police officers and plainly marked police vehicles are highly effective in reminding drivers of their obligation to observe sound driving practices."

American Traffic Safety Services Association: "...In January of this year, the Minnesota Department of Transportation released a report on a study that was conducted on the effectiveness of police in the enforcement of work zone speed limits. That report concluded: 'This study supports the effectiveness of law enforcement officers in reducing vehicle speeds in Construction and Maintenance work zones. The results indicated a reduction in vehicular speeds of 8 - 11 mph when law enforcement was located on site...'

"Based on data provided by MNDOT, support for the increased use of uniformed officers to control speed in both construction and maintenance zones was favored. The use of uniformed officers not only needs to continue where currently employed, but should be enhanced as we expect more road work will be conducted at night in the future..."

"It also should be emphasized that in the past decade considerable advancement has been made in the development of traffic control devices. Deployment of uniformed officers should not be used as a substitute or replacement for these devices which are often part of a system which enhances both safety and mobility in work zones and provides advanced traveler information."

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety: "...Advocates believes that Congress stressed the need for a study to determine the effectiveness of stationing uniformed police officers in highway work zones because of its awareness of and continuing frustration with the poor record of work zone safety operations... Advocates believes that a controlling element of any study protocol adopted by the agency must be the use of successful Measures of Effectiveness (MOEs) for quantifying the benefits of any countermeasures for work zone safety enhancement, including the use of uniformed police officers. Work zone safety data are extraordinarily poor, and, over the years, FHWA has done little to improve the prevailing disaggregated approach to measuring success or failure in improving work zone safety. Even baseline work zone information, such as the annual number of miles of fixed construction sites as one denominator for measuring crash, fatality, and injury rates, is not available.... Put simply, Advocates strongly advises the agency to adopt a sound scientific basis for the prospective study. One approach among many is to adopt a study premise which places uniformed officers on some sites and not on others, while controlling as many governing site variables as possible, including geometry, cross-section, traffic volume, vehicle mix, and other conditions to ensure comparable operating conditions..."

American Road and Transportation Builders Association: "...ARTBA strongly endorses the use of visible police presence during roadway construction. The presence of law enforcement personnel is one of the most effective means to ensure motorist compliance with speed limits and to alert them as to the hazards contained in work zones.

"Police presence is most effective when it is coupled with well-designed and executed work zones. Without appropriate work zone layout with advance notification and traffic channeling devices, police effectiveness is minimized, and may even be a hindrance to traffic safety.

"The use of police presence in work zones provides benefits in addition to the immediate impact on motorist traffic. It services as a public communications effort to demonstrate the importance of traffic safety to the relevant government jurisdiction. Consistent law enforcement may help reduce the number of large trucks involved in work zone accidents and serve as a bridge to competing safety concerns of traffic safety versus worker occupational safety.

"Finally, to effectively use police in roadway construction, FHWA or another relevant organization needs to conduct research and develop guidelines as to when police presence is most effective."

Associated General Contractors of America: "...The use of uniformed police and official police vehicles to enforce speed limits in work zones is one of the most useful means of slowing down traffic. Although our information is anecdotal, our members that work under traffic report to us that the presence of the police has a significant deterrent effect on speeders. It is the only practice that consistently works in getting drivers to obey posted speed limits. AGC strongly urges the U.S. DOT to encourage States to use uniformed police in highway work zones."

Carolinas AGC: "...Based upon the past experience of our members we feel that where high volumes of traffic are required to be maintained through an active construction project the speed limit should be reduced in most instances and, as a minimum, the posted limit must be aggressively enforced. In those instances uniformed law enforcement officers, in clearly marked vehicles, should patrol the areas adjacent to and through the active construction project, on a continuous basis..."

Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania: "...The members of the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania strongly support the use of uniformed police in work zones. Policemen carry a higher level of respect than regular flaggers and are an effective method of slowing down reckless drivers. It is frustrating for our members when they are told there cannot be police coverage because the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation does not want to pay for them. While the use of uniformed officers is a very significant investment, the reduction of accidents deems it extremely worthwhile.

"The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation should budget for policemen in work zones, particularly in areas of high congestion and low visibility. Between 1992 and 1998, the leading cause of fatal accidents in highway work zones was errant motor vehicles striking construction employees (approximately 25 percent). Utilizing uniformed police officers in work zones would definitely reduce this alarming statistic."

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: "Conventional police speed enforcement has several important limitations. First is the temporary nature of speed reductions, as reported by numerous researchers... Second, because enforcement resources are limited and must address many needs in addition to traffic safety, police are constrained in their ability to address speeding problems. And third, because of the very limited amount of speed enforcement that actually is conducted, many drivers realize there is little chance of being caught and therefore are not deterred from speeding. ...the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety strongly recommends the Federal Highway Administration incorporate into its study the use of automated enforcement of work zone speed limits, as a supplement to conventional uniformed police traffic enforcement. Based on the many successful international applications of automated speed enforcement such as London's M25 described above, it is likely that deployment of speed cameras in work zones coupled with conspicuous publicity of their use will reduce the risk and severity of motor vehicle crashes, thereby enhancing the safety or road users, roadway workers, and uniformed police officers."

Virginia Road and Transportation Builders Association: "VDOT does provide the opportunity for police to be utilized on construction and maintenance projects, which is paid for with construction funds. The positive effect on safety is apparent in the fact that during the last three years no fatalities have occurred in a Virginia work zone while police were present."

Contractors and Suppliers

Eight firms engaged in highway construction contracting or supply filed general comments. All were strongly in favor of the use of uniformed police officers in highway construction work zones. Some noted their frustration regarding a lack of sufficient resources for use of police officers.

APAC-Carolina, Inc. (North Carolina): "...in recent years, with the high death rate of both the motoring public, DOT personnel and contractor personnel in our State, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has seen fit to increase the amount of coverage by North Carolina Highway Patrol personnel... The use of uniformed police officers is extremely important in these heavily traveled sections, and makes a big difference in the operations of the motoring public and particularly slows down the Interstate truck traffic. Unless a uniformed officer is on duty on these projects, the motoring public will not slow down for the construction work, no matter what penalties are imposed, but the particular problem is the fact that the over-the-road truck carriers will not slow down at all, and in fact, seem to speed up when they get in construction zones..."

Barriere Construction Co., LLC (Louisiana): "...Our experience has shown that properly trained, highly visible officers assigned to our projects provide a level of protection to the public and our employees that we cannot provide. In most instances, the traveling public totally ignores advance warning and reduced speed limit signs through our work zones. The public is much quicker to notice a police officer and his vehicle with flashing lights, than a contractor-provided signal person. The public also obeys a uniformed police officer more than a signal person..."

Glasgow, Inc. (Pennsylvania): "Several years ago Glasgow, Inc. was awarded two Federal-aid highway contracts .... From the award of the contract to completion we maintained a very close contact with PennDOT and the Pennsylvania State Troopers out of the Belmont Barracks. We met on a weekly basis... There were times when we would be most conservative in requesting Trooper assistance on a specific shift, only to be advised that they felt additional Troopers would be to our workers' benefit. Complete cooperation was given by the Belmont Barracks to assist our MTP crews in setting up and breaking down our work zone patterns, a time when the motoring public was most impatient..."

"...Our experience this past year with the local officers of Tredyffrin Township Police Department at our side has been most rewarding... Tredyffrin Township Police are right there working at our side to make certain our crews and the motoring public are safe.

"The question--'Could we perform this type of construction without the assistance of police officers?' Absolutely not! We encourage FHWA and the Department of Transportation to utilize the services of police officers to protect our men and women in the work zones."

Hunter Industries, Inc. (Texas): "...Police presence within the work zone has not eliminated all accidents, but has dramatically reduced traffic accidents and protected construction workers. Implementation of this program has further reduced frivolous lawsuits against the States and/or the contractors. Being a long-time advocate for this cause, I sincerely hope this logical thinking continues in Washington..."

Milestone Contractors, L.P. (Indiana): "...Over the past five years, we at Milestone Contractors L.P. have had the opportunity to use police on some jobs, only because there was set-aside funding. In all cases, six or so contracts, there were insufficient funds set aside to staff those contracts from start to finish. We strongly believe that using uniformed police on contracts provides huge benefits to all involved..."

Omo Construction, Inc. (Montana): "As a traffic control contractor in the State of Montana, I have seen the use of uniformed police officers patrolling in work zones... It has been very effective in reducing speeding throughout the State... As a side note, we have noticed in Arizona the use of uniformed officers in flagging the work zones. We feel that this is a better alternative to dealing with hostile drivers in work zones... There have been several occasions in the State of Montana where a uniformed officer would have been a great asset as a flagger. We have had several flaggers physically abused due to hostile drivers."

Peek Pavement Marking Inc. (Georgia): "...The use of police officers on Interstate and high-speed, high-traffic work zones is the most effective way to slow traffic and prevent accidents on the job site. However, it is very difficult to get police officers when needed and it is very expensive. The cost for one police officer is at least $30 or more per hour... It would be very helpful if State Patrol officers were allowed on the job site in the event that police officers were not available."

Susquehanna Supply Co..(Pennsylvania): "We have experienced very positive effectiveness of uniformed police officers in a highway work zone. ...The construction was primarily performed during hours of darkness per contract special provision. We observed high speeds and reckless driving the first night or two. These work zones became much more safe for our employees and the road users when the State Police officer(s) was on the project. ...the value of personal injury is tangible, (and strangles our court system), the value of life is priceless."

State Legislators

Four State legislators from Connecticut filed three comments in favor of the use of uniformed police officers on construction sites.

Biago "Billy" Ciotto, State Senator, 9th District, and Paul Doyle, State Representative, State of Connecticut: "...We have supported this idea in the past and continue to do so. The importance of providing safety to those working on the highway as well as those using it is insurmountable..."

Peggy Sayers, State Representative, 6th District, State of Connecticut: "...Workers on the job deserve to have the safest possible working conditions, and I think the best way of ensuring this is to station police officers at these sites. Most people, in my experience, tend to be on their best behavior in the presence of uniformed officers..."

Andrea L. Stillman, Assistant Majority Leader, 38th District, State of Connecticut House of Representatives:"...Having uniformed police officers at construction sites helps to better protect the traveling public. They assist in slowing traffic and in aiding in the case of an accident or some other incident at the construction site..."

Law Enforcement Organizations

Two law enforcement organizations submitted general comments. One was strongly in favor of the policy of using uniformed police officers in work zones, while the other called for increased use of its membership to perform this work.

International Brotherhood of Police Officers: "...It is common knowledge that when a police officer monitors a construction site, drivers will proceed with more caution... Also many times drivers slow down to tell these officers of possible drunk drivers or other dangerous conditions on the road. The IBPO believes that it is crucial that we continue to have uniformed officers at these construction sites. Public safety is the goal of every police officer in America..."

Virginia Sheriff's Association:"...It is apparent that these highway construction projects use the troopers from the Virginia Department of State Police, and more efforts should be made to use local deputy sheriffs for this purpose."

Law Enforcement Agencies

One county law enforcement agency responded with a general comment in favor of use of uniformed officers in highway construction work zones.

Carroll County (Maryland) Sheriff's Office: "The Carroll County Sheriff and his employees support the use of uniformed deputies on Federal-aid highway construction projects. Sworn deputies and police officers at Federal-aid highway construction projects are necessary because of the frequent need to handle accident investigations, emergencies and any incidents that may require the authority to arrest."

Individuals

One individual stated that uniformed officers should not be used in work zones. She stated, "Leave the State Police to do their jobs and let's get some traffic control people on the construction sites. Let's educate the public and keep those construction workers safe."


Page last modified on October 15, 2014.
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