By Howard McCann, P. E., Eldon McCurley and Ashley Mathews
University of Texas Arlington, Public Works Institute
Each day, 1,000 new Texans arrive in the Lone Star State. It isn’t hard to understand how this increase in population correlates to increased use of the state’s road system. The calculation is easy: more residents = more vehicles = more road use. Sadly, this also means an increased potential for vehicle accidents, severe injuries and fatalities.
Approximately one-third of Texas roadway miles belong to counties. As county officials involved in the construction and maintenance of these county roadways, you can make a positive impact on the safety of the traveling public. Below are a few simple steps to make Texas a safer place to drive:
- Promote a safety culture within your workforce. Routinely meet with your work crews, stress the importance of a “safety first, take no chances” job attitude, and solicit input and ideas to help promote safety, both for your crew and for the public.
- Be Seen to Stay Safe: Issue workers safety apparel that satisfies ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 high-visibility standards, and require them to wear it while working on and along the roads. Additionally, provide work crews with clean, bright traffic control devices that help command the drivers’ attention, gain their respect and guide them safely past road work.
- Follow Work Zone Requirements: Ensure those working on or near the roadways are setting up traffic control in accordance with the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and that they receive training in this area. Encourage a close spacing of channelizing devices, such as cones, adjacent to the work space to help remind workers where they are and make them aware of the thin line separating them from moving traffic.
- Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan: Take time to draw out a work zone traffic control plan and confirm that you have enough cones, signs, etc. to carry out the design; in addition, let crew members know what role they play. It’s important that everyone understands that their “job” that day begins by setting up proper traffic control and ends with taking it down.
- Safety Everywhere: Make sure every heavy equipment operator knows the importance of using a “three-point stance” when getting on and off of heavy equipment to help avoid slips, falls and injuries.
- Follow strategies that help promote safer roadways. Often the simplest of safety strategies make the biggest impact.
- Warning: Curve Ahead: Provide advance warning signs for curves. “Single vehicle, run-off-the-road” crashes accounted for about 40 percent (1,333 deaths) of the traffic fatalities in Texas in 2013, with collisions with a fixed object accounting for 941 deaths.
Studies conducted by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have shown that a Crash Reduction Factor of 30 percent may be achieved for run-off-the-road crashes by installing a curve advance warning sign. A crash reduction factor is defined by the FHWA as “the percentage crash reduction rate that might be expected after implementing a given countermeasure at a specific site.”
- Create Forgiving Roads: The term “forgiving roadside” denotes a roadside free of obstacles that could cause injury to vehicle occupants should the driver run-off the road.
Potentially hazardous obstacles are typically treated by methods that include removal, relocation, using a “breakaway” or “crashworthy” device, shielding the obstacle, and delineation if the above are not appropriate. Following are some examples of these measures:
- Remove trees on the right of way.
- Relocate utility poles from the right of way.
- Use “crashworthy” traffic signs and mailbox supports.
- Mark culvert ends and bridge ends with object markers.
- Pull Up Shoulders: Recognize the dangers presented by pavement edge drop-offs and “pull up the shoulders” to eliminate this hazard. When a driver inadvertently leaves the road surface and tries to steer back on, a pavement edge drop-off can lead to over-steering and possibly result in loss of control of the vehicle and that vehicle crossing the centerline into oncoming traffic.
CHRISTI: Potential photos and captions:
Highway engineers have tried for many decades to make the roadside as “forgiving” as possible; the term “forgiving roadside” is thought to have originated in the 1960s (Source: Strategic Plan for Improving Roadside Safety, NCHRP Web Document 33, Feb. 2001.)
Use “crashworthy” sign supports.” TxDOT maintains an online listing of Crashworthy Small Roadside Sign Supports.
Use “crashworthy” mailbox supports, such as these used by TxDOT.
Mark culvert ends and bridge ends.
Use advance warning signs for curves.
Avoid pavement edge drop-offs by “pulling up” shoulders.
Follow the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control procedures in setting up work zone traffic control. Note that this flagger is wearing a high visibility vest, using a STOP/SLOW paddle, and standing behind three cones.
Channeling devices help guide drivers safely through a work zone. A close spacing of devices adjacent to the work space helps remind workers where they are and makes them visually aware of the thin line separating them from moving traffic.