AAA: Message signs can boost work zone safety

Traffic Safety Pulse News

"Road Work Ahead" VMS signage on side of road as cars drive past (AAA) — Two field studies conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety examined the effectiveness of certain “countermeasures” that aim to reduce highway work zone crashes – especially vehicle-mounted electronic variable message signs or VMSs.

“We examined this safety challenge because these crashes are avoidable if drivers slow down and move over to allow roadside workers the space to carry out their duties safely,” explained Dr. David Yang, president and executive director of the Foundation, in a statement.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, two emergency responders – including tow truck workers – are struck and killed every month by a motorist who fails to obey the law by moving over to an adjacent lane and allowing the roadside rescuers the space to operate.

Yang noted that roadside crashes are notably deadly for tow truck workers, as federal government data shows that tow operators are killed at a rate of almost 43 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to just three for all other industries.

The Foundation also surveyed tow truck workers, emergency responders, and road maintenance workers as part its two field studies on their experiences with roadside jobs. Of those surveyed, 60 percent had experienced a near miss while working at the roadside, while 15 percent had survived being hit by a passing vehicle.

“We must help drivers see and react appropriately whenever an emergency responder is on the side of the road,” Yang stressed.