Section 1A.13 of the Federal Highway Administration's Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) states that a "traffic control zone is an area of highway where the road user conditions are changed because of a work zone or incident by the use of temporary traffic control devices, flaggers, uniform law enforcement offices or other authorized personnel.(1) The work zone may be as short as several feet or as long as several miles. Work zones are a dynamic process based on the type of project to be completed. The work zone varies in terms of required protection again depending on the type of project, the duration, the location (in terms of relationship to the traveled way -off the shoulder, on the shoulder or in the traveled way) the time of day or night the work is to be completed. The detail of how to design the minimum level protective systems for construction, incident or maintenance is contained in part 6 of the MUTCD.
What are the Work Zone Hazard results? There are several organizations that acknowledge this national tragedy on our roadways. The FHWA, National Safety Council, The AGC of America, American Transportation Safety Services Association (ATSSA), the American Road Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) etc. have all joined in promoting a National Work Zone Safety Week. The losses are staggering and are not diminishing; in fact losses are on the rise from more vehicles occupying the same space that is being worked on to maintain original design conditions. "Between 1982 -2002 vehicle miles traveled increased by 79% while highway lane miles only increased by 3% … An average of 23,745 miles of roadway had federal aid roadway improvement projects underway per year from 1997 -2001. An estimated 3,110 work zones were present on the National Highway System (NHS) during the peak summer roadwork season of 2001…In 2005, 1,074 fatalities resulted from motor vehicle crashes in work zones. This has grown from 1028 in 2003 (a 4% increase) and 693 in 1997 (a 55% increase)… More than 41,000 people were injured in 2003 as a result of motor vehicle crashes in work zones."(2) The 2003 statistic illustrates the breakout of who is killed, of the 1024 fatalities 85% were motorists. The majority of fatal work zone crashes for all vehicles (59%) and large trucks (71%) occurred on roads with speed limits of 55 mph or greater. Highway and street construction activities (SIC 1611) are among the most hazardous. Fatality rates for construction highway workers are double the rate for other construction. Data shows that 38% of LIUNA (Laborers International Union of North America) members are employed in road construction activities yet over 73% of on-the-job fatalities occurred in road and highway construction. In the U.S. 120- 130 workers die each year in road construction activities.