U. S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
HS 808 705
List of Tables
List of Figures
Work Zone Safety Issues
Motorists in Groups 2, 3 and 4 discussed this topic in depth. It also was discussed in one of the truck driver groups.
Construction As a Cause of Crashes
None of the people in Group 2 thought that construction itself was a major direct cause of Beltway crashes. They did say that construction is a big contributor to congestion and congestion is a major cause of crashes. They said that it would certainly help to reduce congestion if construction were not done in the day time, and particularly not during rush hours. One man noted that night time construction has its own hazards. He remarked about a particular situation, encountered over a long period of time, where the construction lights were blinding.
Unlike Group 2, Group 3 felt that construction is a major cause of Beltway crashes even though this group had not come up with it in their list of Beltway crash causes. To deal with the problem, the group felt more construction should be done at night. Other than that, their only suggestion was that more advance warning should be given. Group 3 indicated that construction delays are very annoying but attempts to probe the group's limits of patience were unsuccessful.
Most of the people in Group 4 did not rank construction as one of the major causes of Beltway crashes. Although construction was mentioned as a crash cause in all of the truck driver sessions, it was not discussed much. The only comment of note was that one driver said narrowed lanes in construction zones sometimes pose a problem for large trucks.
Adequacy of Warning Signs
It was the general consensus of Groups 2, 3, and 4 that construction warning signs are adequate, and they know about construction far enough in advance to take evasive action. One participant complained that there were too many "false alarm" signs left in place when there is no construction. Above all, motorists want the messages to be accurate. Another person remarked that occasionally traffic will back up long before the warning signs.
Law Enforcement Presence in Construction Zones
Group 2 felt that law enforcement presence at construction sites is an unnecessary waste of resources. They would rather see law enforcement on patrol. Conversely, most members of Group 3 were in favor of having law enforcement in major construction zones. They said that the flashing blue lights call attention to the construction sites, slow traffic down, and are especially needed at night. There were a few in the group who thought that law enforcement presence usually is not necessary.
Speeding in Work Zones
Almost all Group 2 and 3 participants said they slow down in construction zones, but admitted they do not slow down to the posted construction zone speeds. Some remarked that traffic does not allow them to go that slow, others said the posted speeds are often unnecessarily low. Some say it is like the speed limit -- no matter what speed is posted, people will go 10 miles an hour faster. They do slow down more when they see a law enforcement car in a construction zone. There were mixed opinions in the group as to whether the speeds currently posted in construction zones are realistic. Some of the group members have empathy for construction workers and think it is a dangerous job.
It was very difficult to get Group 4 to warm up to the topic of construction at all until the issue of speed in work zones was raised. All of them claimed to slow down in work zones, although none claimed to slow down to the posted speed. One of the participants who travels the Beltway mainly in rush hours said it is rare to get up to the posted speed limit. Another participant (the most aggressive woman driver) said that she thinks the posted speeds are reasonable because traffic only poses a danger to workers when they are separated from traffic just by cones. She thinks that the posted speeds could be safely higher where workers are protected by barriers. When asked whether double fines in work zones have any impact, one of the most aggressive males said it has no effect. Another said it got his attention.