Ohio DOT Testing 'Smart' Work Zone Safety Systems

July 5, 2022

Safety at work zones is critical. That's why the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is in the midst of testing several different technologies designed to improve work zone safety at highway construction sites in downtown Columbus.

The new systems should help reduce the risk of congestion-related work zone accidents. It can be difficult to keep traffic flowing smoothly through heavily traveled highway work zones. to address any potential backup, ODOT added queue detection systems along SR 315 South, and I-70 East to warn drivers of slow traffic ahead.

The system detects the speed of traffic, and relays that information to digital message boards, alerting drivers to real-time speeds and congestion, giving them time to slow down and avoid accidents.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to make our work zones safer,” noted ODOT District 6 Deputy Director Anthony Turowski in a statement“With a project of this scale, it’s important to think outside of the box. These innovative tools allow us to effectively and quickly communicate real-time information to help drivers make better decisions while traveling through this area.”

ODOT uses variable speed limit signs in work zones, displaying a reduced speed limit along with flashing lights when workers are present. On the I-71-I-70-SR 315 project, however, the agency also deployed flashing signs at construction exits to caution drivers when a vehicle is detected leaving the work zone.

Often, trucks exiting the work zone travel at a lower rate of speed while merging with interstate traffic, so these signs can help drivers anticipate potential conflicts, Turowski noted. “While these devices certainly enhance safety, nothing is more effective than an attentive driver,” he explained. “When you see work ahead, you should slow down, keep your focus on the road, and keep your hands on the wheel.”

In 2021, Ohio DOT said it recorded nearly 4,800 work zone crashes, of which 35 percent occurred with workers present. Those crashes resulted in 1,759 injuries and 29 deaths, making 2021 one of the deadliest years for work zones in recent history.


Source: AASHTO

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