Principal Investigator: Thomas Mulinazzi
About this Project
Brief Project Description & Background
Currently, limited research exists that evaluates work zone warning systems in comparison to traditional means of protecting work crews. Many work zones do not require positive protection, often times leaving workers very close to traffic. Errant vehicles pose a serious concern, with drivers being more distracted or unable to control their vehicles. One manufacturer has taken action to reduce worker/vehicle crashes by developing an electronic safety perimeter system. This system aims to address errant vehicles penetrating work zones, and has had recent success in the United Kingdom using today’s technology. What makes the Intellicone System unique is that it is an integrated system that alerts work crews of an errant vehicle if one or more plastic channelizing devices or cones adjacent to, before, or in the taper area of the work zone are knocked over. By having multiple strike points for an errant vehicle to be detected, it is expected that this system would be highly effective in the United States for increasing safety in multiple areas of the temporary work zone. The proposed research project is to work with the manufacturer and distributor to retrofit the system to common U.S. safety devices found in Kansas work zones, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the system.
The proposed research project will involve two forms of field data collection. In the closed and open course studies, safety perimeter effectiveness will be based on measurements of sound using a sound meter as well as operational tests (e.g., cell network reliability, false positive alarms, and equipment compatibility). In addition to field data measurements, a short survey will be conducted while the system is at various work zones. The survey will be designed to evaluate the perceived effectiveness of workers, inspectors, and contractor foreman. The data will be synthesized, and appropriate statistical tests will be performed to validate the study.
It is expected that this project will be of interest to contractors, the Kansas Department of Transportation, and local communities. Based on the vendor’s preliminary information, the research team expects this product to perform well under certain work zone specific geometric and operational conditions. The research team also initially believes there may be some technological issues in using the cell network; however, this initial thought process cannot be quantified until tested. Ultimately, the research team hopes that this product will be effective, and hopes to see additional safety devices like the electronic perimeter system in Kansas work zones.
Highway agencies have recognized that crashes occurring in work zones due to errant vehicles are a serious safety concern for both drivers and work crew. Positive protection on hazardous or long-duration temporary work zones provides a safe means of escape or a lateral buffer space for work crews. However, not all temporary work zones require positive protection, leaving sometimes only a shadow vehicle or plastic channelizers to separate open traffic and workers. Work zone perimeter protection devices have been tested and used since the 1990s with limited and/or inconclusive results. Limitations identified by previous research studies have indicated that false-positive alarms, poor communication technology, or improper training has led to the discontinued use or poor results of such devices. This research study aims to evaluate a safety perimeter system designed to detect errant vehicles striking a channelizer and immediately alert work crews in both short and long work zone operations. It is expected that, with advancements in technology, a proof of concept study and field demonstration will provide potential safety benefits for temporary work zones in Kansas.