A new set of studies from The American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety on AAA’s website asking “tow workers, emergency responders, and road maintenance workers” about their experiences found multiple troubling statistics.
The study said that of the people asked, 60 percent of them had experienced a “near-miss” as roadside workers and 15 percent had survived being hit by a passing vehicle.
Highland County Engineer Christopher Fauber said “luckily” the county has not had any of its roadside workers get hit. However, he did say that the county has had some near misses like the study said, also saying that it comes from people blowing past the flagger or going through the traffic. He said these people just don’t want to slow down.
The AAA study said that there were multiple ways found to mitigate some of those statistics. It said that the one that was most successful was electronic vehicle-mounted variable message signs (VMS).
The study found that “With VMS activated, drivers changed lanes and slowed down more than when the VMS was not operating.” It also said that the odds of a vehicle moving over were 95 percent higher when the VMS was used.
“Yeah, it’s a challenge we face all the time,” Fauber said. “You know, we put signs out. Try to give people as much of a warning ahead that we can. Honestly, that’s why, a lot of times, if we’re gonna be working in the roadway, we actually just close the roads down temporarily for that day. We’ll let the buses and the mail and any emergency vehicles go through. We found that it’s safer. I know sometimes people get upset because they have to maybe take a little detour that day, but we just found that that’s the safest for us.”
The AAA study also studied using items like cones, flares and emergency flashing light patterns. It said that using them “led to significant lane shifts by drivers but were less effective at reducing speeds or increasing the distance to the passing vehicles that did not change lanes.”
Fauber said that in times when the county decides to not completely close a road, they will typically have flaggers and make sure every vehicle stops before they’re waved through.
“Then, we’ll typically radio ahead,” he said. “Try to give the guys a warning. A ‘Hey, we’ve got traffic.’ Usually, in that situation, they’ll try to get to one side of the road, you know, and allow the traffic to go through. We just ask that they, when they do go through the construction zone, that they respect that and go slow and once they get through the construction that they can get back up to the posted speed.”
Fauber also said that the county is “hopefully” getting to the tail-end of the snow season and wanted to make people aware of the plow trucks on the road. He said that if people see those trucks with their lights on to take it slow.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.