Evaluation of Work Zone Design Features to Aid Older Drivers

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ITE Journal






Institute of Transportation Engineers

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Work zones are estimated to account for 22 percent of roadway crashes and more than 1000 fatalities annually. Moreover, older road users have been overrepresented in work zone crashes. In an effort to mitigate the increased risks associated with older drivers in work zones along with mitigating other hazards for older drivers, FHWA published the Highway Design Handbook for Older Drivers and Pedestrians. This paper presents the results of research conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of selected work zone design guidelines recommended in the FHWA Handbook. Central to this research was a field study along a rural segment of Interstate 91 in western Massachusetts. Several design features were evaluated including: 1) lane closure/lane transition practices; 2) portable changeable message signing practices; and 3) channelization practices and delineation of crossovers/alternate travel paths. In addition, a focus group was conducted to gauge opinion of the work zone configuration employed. The major findings of the evaluation are as follows: 1) Older drivers’ speeds approaching the work zone tend to be lower and have more variance then other drivers; 2) older drivers have a less uniform merging pattern, making more conservative early merges; 3) portable changeable message signs in advance of work zones are effective in reducing speeds among older drivers and other drivers; and 4) The combination of the arrow board and static signage appears to provide drivers with information needed to make safe merges. The results of the field study suggest that these design features are effective at changing driver expectancy that may lead to increased safety within the work zone.

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