Monday, April 6, 2009

"Don't Barrel Through Work Zones" and Save Lives

MoDOT Fallen Heroes Honored During Work Zone Awareness Week

JEFFERSON CITY - In work zone crashes everyone loses. Motorists are the ones most likely to be killed or injured in a work zone crash, and too often highway workers are hurt or killed as well. Work Zone Awareness Week is April 6-10, and the Missouri Department of Transportation is reminding drivers: don't barrel through work zones.

In 2008, 12 people were killed in work zones, an increase from 2007 when five people were killed. However, fewer people were injured with approximately 600 serious injuries in work zones in 2008, compared to 792 in 2007. Three MoDOT employees lost their lives on the job during 2008. Speed, inattention and tailgating are cited as the cause of most crashes in areas where roadwork is under way.

"We need drivers to pay attention to highway construction and drive with caution to prevent senseless deaths and injuries," said Pete Rahn, MoDOT director. "We're also asking the public to rate work zones they've driven through. That first-hand information will help us make adjustments and increase safety for motorists and our work crews."

To fill out a Work Zone Customer Survey and help improve MoDOT work zones, visit

MoDOT is also working to draw attention to work zone safety and honor its 128 fallen workers through Operation Orange, an initiative to turn significant state landmarks orange during the week.

In addition to MoDOT buildings statewide, other facilities that will be orange include: the Six Flags marquee, Busch Stadium home of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Boone County Courthouse, the Shelter Insurance Gardens in Columbia, Hammonds Field home of the Springfield Cardinals, the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge and the Branson Landing. More information about Operation Orange can be found at

At a ceremony this evening at MoDOT's headquarters in Jefferson City, a sign will be unveiled marking the location of a future memorial honoring the men and women who have lost their lives improving Missouri's highway infrastructure.

Additionally, MoDOT will remind motorists of the need to drive safely in work zones around the state with radio and internet banner ads, as well as safety advertisements on fuel pump tops at various gas stations and messages on the department's changeable message boards.

The 2009 construction season will be filled with roadwork as MoDOT continues its Better Roads, Brighter Future program to improve 5,600 miles of roadways by 2011. There will also be an increase in work on bridges this year, thanks to the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Plan.

Additional projects will also be under way due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

For more information about construction projects statewide, look for work zone locations on MoDOT's interactive traveler information map at or call 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636).


Richard B. Barger said...

Other things being equal, longer "safety zones" are more dangerous, costly, and driver-unfriendly than shorter zones.

Let me explain: I understand the thinking that, if you herd all vehicles into one lane sooner -- well before the construction -- safety will be improved. But this is wrong, as simple observation proves.

I wish UMR or Texas A&M or someone would do a study, for you'll find that, the longer the orange-barrel lane blockade, the disproportionately greater the traffic tie-up, fuel wastage, carelessness, and road rage.

In simple terms, what happens is that vehicles crowd down to a (nearly) bumper-to-bumper spacing at the point of the merge on, say, a four-lane highway or Interstate; THEN, as drivers drive through an unnecessarily long one-lane "chute," with the other lane blocked, the traffic spaces out to a more normal between-vehicle distance.

If you begin to sum (add up) all of the extra space between cars, the longer the chute, the greater the backup at the point of narrowing. The greater the backup, the more fuel and time wasted, and the angrier the drivers.

If you've ever driven on a heavily traveled Interstate after the first lane closure warnings are encountered, you'll often see selfish over-the-road truckers blocking traffic, infuriating drivers behind them; often, you'll see angry drivers try to go around these trucks on the shoulder, with stupid truckers sometimes pulling out of the travel lanes to block their passage.

Stupidity on top of stupidity.

I absolutely understand the need for safety, and that sometimes two construction zones are so close to one another that it makes no sense to force traffic to merge into one lane twice in, say, a mile.

However, often, on resurfacing projects, for instance, the construction crew will close one lane for several miles, because they hope to get that far during the day, rather than doing the extra, driver-friendly work of having a rolling closure that just stays a few hundred yards in front of the work being done.

If the idea of a four-lane highway is to move large volumes of traffic, then, only the bounds of SAFETY, not contractor convenience, should dictate the mileage length of a lane closure.

While I'm not an engineer or even trained in this subject, I am a reasonably intelligent observer, who understands the physical dynamics of traffic flow.

I believe that, if the right people in your organization were to look at this with an open mind, or would conduct a study, you would find that traffic flow and work zone safety would increase, rather than decrease, by reducing unnecessarily long lane closures.

Thanks for considering my comments.

Richard B. Barger
1156 Queen's Place
Kansas City, MO 64131-3264

Anonymous said...

The problem is that with the number of stupid drivers on the road alot of the work zones HAVE to be excessively long.

Im sure that we have all noticed the number of barrels at the front of a work zone that are hit and dented from stupid drivers plowing straight through. Now imagine if those barrels were only a few hundred yards from the works. A driver that is so inattentive that they hit the orange barrels may not stop before running over workers or into equipment.

If people on the road were slightly more patient and actully paid attention to what was going on around them...long lane closures prior to the actual work being done may not be needed.

Jim said...

As an engineer, I think that Mr. Barger make a good argument, at least that it deserves examination, if it has not already been.

However, he might not realize that in many cases, contractors utilize a "rolling lane drop". Also, that certain types of work don't allow for immediate reopening.

Again, it is worth noting, that Mr. Barger's comment was exceptionally well versed, considering most "pot shots" that are usually spewed.