Preventing Vehicle Accidents in Highway Construction and Maintenance Areas

Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of death in countries around the world and the need to cope with incidents affecting traffic has long been an issue. State transportation agencies have known for an equally long time that incidents and accidents in highway work zones is a priority task. Often traffic has been travelling down a highway at significant speed, only to come around a bend and find a line of virtually stationary traffic ahead of them, queuing to get through roadwork’s with reduced speeds and narrower and often reduced numbers of lanes. The use of intelligent traffic systems has been shown to be effective in reducing accidents, and increasing the safety of highway workers, as well as motorists, while providing a much more efficient flow of traffic through traditionally accident prone areas.

Benefits of Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS)

The general public isn’t that concerned with who is building and maintaining the roads, but they are concerned about getting real-time information about possible delays and potential queues. The benefits of ITS are not only in reducing accidents in congested areas, where there is a stop-start nature to traffic, but also its ability to  smooth traffic flow, and can provide information to other motorists, helping to divert them away from the area, as well as alerting emergency services to any incident the instant it happens. Additional benefits not immediately seen at the worksite are that congestion causes delays to industry, which increases the cost of business, while a smooth flow of traffic is better for fuel consumption and the associated pollution.

Mobile Intelligent Traffic Systems

A smart traffic review can help with the ITS aspects needed for each zone in roadwork areas, with the largest percentage of accidents being rear end accidents, caused by someone at speed coming across an unexpected stationary queue. Relocatable queue warning systems and variable message boards have been shown to dramatically reduce the frequency of such incidents, and can also warn of unusual or dangerous road conditions, such as fog, ice, surface water or any other unexpected hazard. Variable message boards can also provide information to drivers on expected delay times, alternative routes, or other travel information which can help to reduce stress. Variable speed limits are very good at improving safety, which can reduce traffic speeds prior to any upcoming potential obstacle, while lane management is also appropriate. This can be used not only to inform motorists of the status of a lane, being open or closing, but can merge traffic at early stages when traffic is flowing, allowing use of more lanes if congestion is building until the roadwork’s merge, which assists traffic in flowing far better than leaving it undirected. A key aspect of an ITS system is the use of CCTV for traffic monitoring, to gain real time information on traffic, road conditions, visibility and incident control.

Advances in technology in ITS have made roads across the country far safer than ever before, not just in providing traffic management in the cities, but across the country in rural areas too. The aim is to utilise the information gathered, to try to solve the transport challenges Australia faces and make our roads safer and smarter for motorists and workers alike.