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FHWA Home / Safety / National Work Zone Awareness Week

10th Annual National Work Zone Awareness Week (2009)


How Good is America's Roadway System?

The U.S. roadway system's safety trends have resulted in a 2007 fatality rate of approximately 1.37 deaths per 100 million miles of travel (down from a 5.50 rate in 1966). However, that's still not good enough. In 2007, nearly 2.5 million people were injured and 41,059 people died on our nation's roads.

How Significant is the Work Zone Problem?


Exposure and Delay

Can You Put This in Perspective for the Past Year?

  • One work zone fatality every 10 hours (about 2.3 a day)
  • One work zone injury every 13 minutes (110 a day)
  • More than 60 million vehicles per hour of capacity lost to work zones each day during the peak construction period.

What is the FHWA Goal for Safer and Less Disruptive Work Zones?

As an agency dedicated to safe and efficient surface transportation, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is dedicated to reducing congestion and crashes in work zones. Consequently, the safe and efficient flow of traffic through work zones is a major concern. FHWA is implementing proactive regulatory changes; developing and providing a broad array of guidelines and training; and increasing public awareness through partnering activities. As we address congestion in work zones, we can help improve safety as well.

What is the FHWA Doing to Solve This National Work Zone Problem?

FHWA is actively pursuing improved work zone safety and mobility through a multi-faceted approach in regulation and through better 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 work zone safety and mobility 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 better 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 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 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, titled the Work Zone Safety and Mobility Rule, 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 a comprehensive assessment of work zone safety impacts early in the design phase of a project and that appropriate strategies be used to improve work zone mobility and safety. Guidance and examples for implementing this Rule are available at http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/resources/final_rule.htm.

In accordance with SAFETEA-LU, the FHWA published the Final Rule on temporary traffic control devices in December 2007. This rule seeks to enhance work zone safety by establishing requirements for the appropriate use of uniformed law enforcement officers, positive protective measures between workers and motorized traffic, and installation and maintenance of temporary traffic control devices during construction, utility and maintenance operations.

This regulatory change followed another regulation developed as a result of SAFETEA-LU. In November 2006, the FHWA issued a final rule establishing a policy for the use of high visibility apparel by workers who are working within the rights-of-way of Federal-aid highways. This action was taken to decrease the likelihood of fatalities or injuries to workers on foot who are exposed to traffic.

FHWA also researches how delays in construction of highway projects can be avoided through the use of techniques such as accelerated construction methods, innovative contracting, intelligent transportation systems for work zone management, and closing ramps or a road altogether to get work done much more quickly. Case studies and other technical resources on these techniques can be found at http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/.

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 and mobility through a wide array of activities such as: the FHWA and Work Zone Safety Clearinghouse web sites; 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. In 2008, the Clearinghouse is newly updated and enhanced to offer more tools and resources to work zone practitioners.

To help younger drivers, the FHWA and the ARTBA worked together to develop a broad, multifaceted campaign about work zones that is oriented specifically to new drivers. This campaign, called "Turning Point", was formulated to make new drivers aware of work zone hazards and provide them with guidance on safely negotiating work zone situations. FHWA and ARTBA designed the campaign to be used primarily in the driver education process; however, it can also be a resource to the parents of new drivers and others. The "Turning Point" Campaign is based upon the theme that new drivers are at a turning point in their lives. It is intended to help new drivers understand the hazards that may be encountered while driving through work zones. 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 materials such as the interactive training tool which puts new drivers behind the wheel in work zones is expected to get widespread use by computer savvy teens. More than 5,000 toolkits with the campaign materials developed in this project have been distributed to driving instructors and DOTs.More information about this campaign is also available on www.WorkZoneDriver.org.

FHWA provides work zone training courses for highway engineers. The FHWA developed an Advanced Work Zone Management and Design Course that is now being offered through FHWA’s National Highway Institute. The FHWA is also developing training courses and guidelines through the Work Zone Safety Grant Program established by section 1409 of SAFETEA-LU. The grant program is funded at $20 million dollars ($5M per year for FYs 2006-2009). There are 4 grant recipients: American Traffic Safety Services Association; Wayne State University; Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America; and Illinois Institute of Technology. Their focus is on providing existing training, developing guidelines, and developing training on the guidelines.

FHWA has established a Work Zone Peer-to-Peer Program [1-866-P2P-FHWA (1-866-727-3492); or WorkZoneP2P@dot.gov] that serves as a resource to agencies looking for better methods, tools and strategies to improve work zone safety and mobility. Through this program, assistance is available from experienced practitioners who have “been there and done that” and have lessons learned and success stories that they can share to help others as they contemplate different ways to address work zone safety and mobility.

For the technical highway community, FHWA distributes a Best Practices Guidebook (available at http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/wz/), that highlights good work zone practices of state transportation agencies throughout the United States. Also, in addition to developing Quickzone, a software decision making tool that helps engineers improve work zone safety and mobility, the FHWA is also developing a primer on work zone traffic analysis tools along with a companion decision guide.

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. On December 5, 2007, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued its final rule on new, supplemental regulations concerning the use and payment of uniformed law enforcement officers, positive protection measures between workers and motorized traffic, and temporary traffic control devices on construction, maintenance, and utility work zones (23 CFR 630 Subpart K). The regulations are intended to reduce the likelihood of fatalities and injuries to both road users and highway workers. The regulations apply to all Federal-Aid highway projects, but state agencies are encouraged to adopt these on other types of projects as well. The regulations become effective December 4, 2008. In addition, 23 CFR 630 Subpart J includes requirements for training of enforcement personnel.

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. In addition, the FHWA has developed the Work Zone Law Enforcement course which is being taught by ATSSA through the Work Zone Safety Grant program as mentioned in the Education section.

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 has funded research for a Variable Speed Limits (VSL) Demonstration Project in work zones. The VSL technology determines appropriate speeds for work zones and changes them when conditions changes. This demonstration project analyzed variations in speed and accompanying driver behavior (i.e. abruptly hitting the brakes).

Emergency Services: The primary responsibilities of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are the triage, treatment, and transport of crash victims. In many areas, fire and rescue companies provide emergency medical services; and in other areas, agencies or private companies provide these services to local jurisdictions under contract. EMS professionals have a very difficult job in providing advanced emergency medical care and determining approximate cause of injuries for the trauma center. They must also deal with the transportation issues of determining destinations and routes for the injured and coordinating evacuation with fire, police, and ambulance services. This is more critical when considering the complexities within a work zone.

When work zones are designed, and staging options are being considered, emergency services must be considered. There are at least two questions which should be asked to develop a good plan incorporating emergency services, such as: 1. How will the staging affect emergency services response times? 2. If an incident happens within the work zone, will emergency services be able to get through to assist the injured parties? If staging would limit or delay the passage of emergency services vehicles, then special coordination arrangements must be made with them.

Partnership Activities: FHWA believes that partnerships create synergy and are very important to improving work zone safety and mobility. 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.

Also, Highways for Life (HfL); (https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/hfl/), a technology transfer program managed by the Federal Highway Administration, provides grant money to the States to build roads faster, while making them last longer and less costly to maintain. Hfl is focused on accelerating the rate of adoption of innovations and technologies in order to improve safety and highway quality while reducing congestion caused by construction. Fifteen States, including Iowa, Minnesota, South Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Maine, Missouri, Oregon, Virginia, California, Maryland, Montana, New York, North Dakota, and Utah, will each receive up to $1 million to reduce traffic jams near construction zones.

Who Is Responsible for Work Zone Safety and Mobility?

Everyone.We all are responsible for driving, walking, and biking, safely through work zones. Engineers and planners have the responsibility to make sure the work zone is designed and operating properly -- with safety and mobility 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 making work zones work better.

10 Tips for Driving in Work Zones

Page last modified on December 10, 2014
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