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Vehicle-mounted electronic signs help protect roadway workers: study


Photo: Missouri Department of Transportation Flickr

Washington — Vehicle-mounted electronic signs indicating that tow truck drivers and first responders are roadside may have significant outcomes for worker safety.

That’s according to researchers from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Through two field studies on busy roads, they examined the effectiveness of multiple countermeasures to protect roadside workers. The researchers also surveyed a group of tow workers, emergency responders and road maintenance workers. Among this group, 15% survived being hit by a passing vehicle, while 60% reported experiencing a near miss.

During the field studies, vehicles were 95% more likely to change lanes and slow down when electronic, vehicle-mounted variable message signs were activated. Passenger vehicles were more responsive than trucks or buses.

Although other countermeasures such as cones, flares and emergency flashing light patterns boosted lane-shifting habits among drivers, they were “less effective” at reducing speeds or increasing the distance of passing vehicles that didn’t change lanes.

“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,” David Yang, president and executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said in a press release. “We must help motorists see and react appropriately whenever an emergency responder is on the side of the road.”

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