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

TThe Use of Uniformed Police Officers - VIII. Studies on Use of Uniformed Police Officers in Work Zones

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

VIII. Studies on Use of Uniformed Police Officers in Work Zones

(Federal Register question #19, AASHTO question # 17)

Study Responses

Only 16 of 58 respondents indicated that their agency had studies on the use of uniformed police officers in highway work zones were completed or underway. Specific comments are included within this section for reference.

Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, Inc.: Police Details: The Media, The Myths, The Facts, The Figures, BPPA 1995. [Title of study submitted.]

California Highway Patrol: "The last study was conducted in 1990. It recognized that 'enhanced enforcement has been successful in improving safety for both motorists and construction workers in freeway work zones.' The study recommended a cost/benefit mechanism to identify construction activities where enhanced enforcement would likely be more effective."

Colorado State Patrol: "The Motorcycle Team Program was a project in which the Colorado State Patrol deployed troopers on motorcycles to enforce hazardous violations in four high hazard construction zone locations. The intent was to affect the number of fatal and injury crashes occurring through intensive selective enforcement. A variety of team operations were used and schedules were developed to accommodate specific traffic patterns and driving habits. Funding for this project was provided by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), Office of Transportation Safety (OTS).

"All four target areas were located in highway construction zones. Construction engineers forecast a 50 percent increase in traffic crashes in construction zones. The expected number of fatal and injury motor vehicle crashes based on engineering estimates could have totaled 819. The anticipated number of crashes for all of the target areas would have been 546. There were actually 489 accidents. This represents a decrease of 57 crashes, or 10.4 percent, when compared to what was anticipated. Using the engineering estimates for comparison, there was a reduction of 330 crashes, or 40 percent. The impact the hours of selective enforcement had on the four high hazard construction zone locations is significant."

Illinois State Police: Division of Operations Annual Report includes traffic crash statistics.

Indiana State Police: "Some of our district commanders have studied the benefits of having officers in the work zones in their area of responsibility. However, there has not been a statewide cost-to-benefit study done on the effectiveness of officers at work sites."

Louisiana State Police: "The use of police officers in highway construction zones is being studied by our department at this time."

Michigan State Police: "A study was conducted of the Metro Detroit area project in 1998. A study is being conducted of the 1999 statewide project at this time."

Minnesota Department of Transportation: "Yes, they show an 8 - 10 mph reduction in motorist speeds."

New Jersey State Police (NJSP): "An informal study conducted by the Construction unit has revealed significant reductions in serious and fatal crashes in and around highway construction work zones. The NJSP Traffic Bureau, Fatal Accident Unit is refining their data base to capture fatal crash information occurring in work zones."

New York State Department of Transportation: "This study is ongoing."

Wisconsin Troopers' Association: "Yes, after action reports are completed by supervisor in charge of the construction project (contract Division of State Patrol for reports)."

Other respondents that reported studies completed or under way included:

Docket Submissions

Following is a summary of studies submitted to the Federal docket.

Studies Evaluating Effectiveness of UPOs in Work Zones

Benkohal, Rahim F.: "Speed Reduction Methods and Studies in Work Zones: A Summary of Findings." Project IHR-014, Illinois Cooperative Highway Research Program, conducted by the Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for the Illinois Department of Transportation, in cooperation with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. September 1992.

The study conclusions state: "...police presence (a circulating marked police car) in the highway work zone was found to be effective in reducing the average speeds and percentages of fast-moving cars and trucks. The average speeds of the cars inside the work zone were 4.3 - 4.4 mph lower when police were patrolling the work zone compared to the no-police condition. Similarly, trucks presented speed reductions of 4.3 - 5.0 mph due to police presence. The percentages of cars and trucks exceeding the speed limit decreased by 14 percent and 32 percent, respectively, at a location before the work space. However, after passing the work space, cars and trucks increased their speeds." The study authors recommend "to continue using police officers for speed control in work zones."

Maryland Department of Transportation, Office of Traffic, Traffic Projects Division, Traffic Management Section: "Effectiveness of the Maryland State Police Care in Work Areas," September 1991.

Findings and recommendations:

"When the flashing police car was placed behind the Symbol Lane Reduction sign, speed reductions were observed at different locations. Also, the percentage of merging traffic well in advance of the taper was much higher than other experimental conditions. The flashing police car should be placed upstream of the arrow panel, ie. Near 800 ft sign. The flashing police car must be located so that it is highly visible to the approaching motorists from at least 1500 feet upstream of the police car. However, when there is a traffic backup due to unreasonably high demand or due to some incident in the work area, the flashing police car should be positioned behind the queue.... The motorists tended to ignore the work zone speed limit warning signs. They were traveling at speeds much higher than the posted speed limit even when the flashing police car was placed in the work area.... Motorist non-compliance to these speed limit signs suggests the need for aggressive police enforcement at these work areas."

Noel, Errol C., Conrad L. Dudek, Olga J. Pendleton, and Ziad A. Sabra: "Speed Control Through Freeway Work Zones: Techniques Evaluation,", TranSafety Paper Number TRPO495, TranSafety, Inc., Burke, Va., 1987.

This paper presents evaluates the relative effectiveness of four techniques:

Four techniques were applied continuously on six-lane freeways for a period of 10-15 days. The law enforcement methods demonstrated a stronger speed reduction capability than did flagging procedures; particularly when the lane closures result in two or more lanes open.

Richards, Stephen H., Robert C. Wunderlich, and Conrad L. Dudek: "Field Evaluation of Work Zone Speed Control Techniques," Traffic Management in Highway Work Zones and Setting Optimal Maintenance Levels and Rehabilitation Frequencies: Transportation Research Record 1035, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 1985.

The following work zone speed control methods were studied: flagging, law enforcement, changeable message signs, effective lane width reduction, rumble strips, and conventional regulatory and advisory speed signing. Flagging and law enforcement methods were found to be the most effective methods for controlling speeds at work zones. The best flagging treatment tested reduced speeds an average of 19 percent for all sites. The best law enforcement treatment reduced speeds an average of 18 percent.

Studies Providing Guidelines for Use of Uniformed Police Officers in Work Zones

Mounce, John M. and R. Quinn Brackett: "Guidelines for Utilization of Police Officers in Traffic Control and Enforcement on Urban Freeways," Transportation Research Record

1210, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 1989.

This paper presents guidelines for assessing the need for using uniformed police personnel for various activities, including traffic control and enforcement. The paper also includes recommendations for addressing institutional, legal, and economic issues that affect utilization of police officers.

Conner, Capt. Terry W., Arizona Department of Transportation: "The Use of Police in Work Zone Traffic Control," Work Zone Safety Reference Manual, Volume II, Roy W. Anderson, P.E., Editor, TranSafety, Inc., Burke, Va., 1992.

The paper includes recommendations, an eight-point checklist for developing an effective program for use of UPOs in construction zones, and a discussion of the key concerns of the law enforcement community regarding such programs.

Milldebrandt, Maj. Thomas H., Arizona Department of Transportation: "Role of Police in Work Zone Traffic Control," Work Zone Safety Reference Manual, Roy W. Anderson, P.E., Editor, TranSafety, Inc., Burke, Va., 1988.

Includes recommendations on how to use police most effectively; coordination and communication between police and DOT engineers; what not to expect of the police; and use of the media.

Dudek, Conrad L., and Stephen H. Richards: "Special Traffic Management for Maintenance Work Zones on Urban Freeways," TranSafety Paper Number TXTO159, TranSafety, Inc., Burke, Va., 1988.

Provides guidelines for maintenance work zones on urban freeways. Recommends use of police to "control traffic at ramps and intersections, prevent illegal freeway access, enforce frontage road and no-parking zones, and increase driver alertness and obedience to traffic control devices."

Dudek, Conrad L., and Gerald L. Ullman: "Freeway Corridor Management," National

Cooperative Highway Research Program Synthesis of Highway Practice 177, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. 1992.

Includes a chapter on "Police Enforcement and Traffic Control." Discusses in detail the major facets of freeway corridor management in which enforcement efforts are crucial to success.

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