BOSTON – The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will be implementing recommendations made by its Work Zone Safety Task Force in an effort to promote safety for highway workers, contractors, law enforcement personnel, motorists, and members of the public in work zones throughout the Commonwealth. On March 13, at a meeting of the MassDOT Board of Directors, Highway Administrator Thomas J. Tinlin provided an update regarding the Work Zone Safety Task Force’s activities and progress thus far.
“MassDOT is committed to helping reduce motor vehicle crashes while also enhancing safety and facilitating effective operations throughout our work zones,” said Administrator Tinlin. “Although many work zone crashes involve allegedly impaired drivers, our Task Force has recognized opportunities for further safety enhancements and has identified several initiatives that MassDOT will be pursuing during this upcoming construction season.”
Some of these work zone safety initiatives include:
• Flashing blue LED lights installed on portable trailers which can simulate the presence of a law enforcement vehicle and can be useful in work zones with limited police coverage. MassDOT has started initial testing with portable trailers retrofitted with flashing blue LED lights on two active construction projects on Route 2 and on I-190 and will continue testing these systems in the coming months.
• Temporary portable rumble strips placed at the entrances of work zones to help alert distracted drivers with an audible warning and physical vibration to get their attention prior to entering a work zone. MassDOT plans to expand the use of portable rumble strips for high-speed (45mph and above) lane closures to help in reducing speed and alerting drivers that they are approaching a work area.
• Work zone safety instructions included in driver’s education as there are currently no references to work zone safety in the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Manual. Through the introduction of basic work zone safety principles during the education process, MassDOT hopes to produce better informed and prepared drivers.
• The “take-five” huddle incorporated into more construction projects in order to reinforce safety habits and facilitate improved communication. This pre-setup meeting is used by some construction teams and contractors to review safety procedures and processes prior to each work session, and findings by the Task Force indicate that the meetings can be effective in promoting safety.
In response to several serious motor vehicle crashes that occurred in MassDOT work zones during the 2016 construction season, the Work Zone Safety Task Force was convened to analyze and evaluate work zone activities. The Task Force includes individuals from several MassDOT sections including Traffic and Safety Engineering, Construction, Legal, and Operations and Management, as well as subject matter experts from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Massachusetts State Police (MSP), the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPS), the Massachusetts Sheriff’s Associations, and Construction Industries of Massachusetts.
Since July 2016, when the Work Zone Safety Task Force was formed, until January 5, 2017, Massachusetts State Police documented 395 crashes within work zones under the jurisdiction of State Police in the state, which resulted in 181 injuries. A main connecting thread in many work zone incidents is alleged impaired driving from drunk, drugged, and drowsy drivers.