Regardless of the warning signs, lights and other signals for a change in traffic patterns, accidents are still happening in our work zones. In 2017 alone, the Pennsylvania Crash Facts and Statistics recorded a total of 1,778 crashes in these areas, 43% of which resulted in injuries or fatalities. Pennsylvania DOT (PennDOT) attributed these incidents to “constantly changing conditions” and noted that drivers either were not paying attention or were not exercising the correct amount of caution.
Despite these statistics, studies show distracted driving is still on the rise, putting road workers in increasing danger as they repair and reshape highway infrastructure. PennDOT has combatted distracted driving since 2012, when a statewide law was enacted to prohibit sending, reading or writing a text-based communication while a vehicle is in motion. However, 60% of drivers admit to using their phone at least once while driving, which equates to approximately 69 million people nationwide per day.
After evaluating different options to improve work-zone safety, PennDOT decided to take an innovative approach to the problem. Last month in Harrisburg, PennDOT officially added RAPTOR Rumble Strip Handling Machine to its fleet of equipment.
RAPTOR is part of the RoadQuake Safety System, a product line built to support RoadQuake Temporary Portable Rumble Strips (TPRS). Designed to reduce accidents and save lives, RoadQuake TPRS alerts drivers to changing road conditions by rumbling and vibrating as loud as their traditional milled-in counterparts. The strips do not require any glue, adhesive or nails to secure them to the road, and can be reused over and over in short duration work zones. RoadQuake is rated to work in areas with a speed limit of up to 75 miles per hour, and in temperatures from 0-180 degrees Fahrenheit, making it appropriate for flagging operations, lane closures, routine maintenance, paving operations and other projects.
When RoadQuake TPRS debuted in February 2014, the strips had to be set up manually. Although several other deployment options have been developed over the years, RAPTOR is the first innovation to keep workers entirely out of live traffic. With RAPTOR, workers deploy, realign and retrieve RoadQuake TPRS from the safety of the cab. The machine mounts to the front of the vehicle, leaving the back available for other safety equipment, such as a truck mounted attenuator (TMA). In addition to keeping workers off the road, RAPTOR reduces the risk of superficial or soft tissues injuries incurred by lifting heavy objects such as RoadQuake.
Pennsylvania is the first state to formally incorporate RAPTOR into their fleet. During the initial installation in late February, RAPTOR performed multiple deployment and retrieval cycles indoors for PennDOT employees. In the next few months the organization will utilize RAPTOR in a variety of live work-zone setups to test its effectiveness in decreasing distracted driving and saving lives.