About the research
As traffic-related work zone crashes continue to increase across the nation, safety of road users and workers has become a top priority for transportation agencies. Since inattention and irresponsible behavior by drivers are surmised to contribute to the frequency of work zone crashes, a program featuring extraordinary presence of and enforcement by law officers has been implemented in many states to address this concern. A literature search of such programs and related research was conducted. While the overall benefits of these activities have been found positive, much of the evidence has been anecdotal. To assess the scope of extra work zone enforcement programs, a survey was developed and distributed to state departments of transportation across the nation. This survey sought information regarding these efforts such as criteria for selection of target work zones, methods of enforcement operations, and beneficial results. A special survey was also designed and distributed to enforcement agencies in Iowa and other selected states. In addition to the surveys, personal contacts and office visits were conducted by the research team staff.
The study found that use of extra enforcement in work zones is a common practice in many states and these activities appear to be increasing. Current literature, survey responses, and interviews have all indicated a prevalent opinion for the benefits of increased law enforcement presence and activity in work zones. Very few comments offered conclusions of negative impacts, such as additional congestion, from these efforts. However, the beneficial effects of focused enforcement have not been intensively quantified. In addition, procedures for the use of law officers in work zones are quite inconsistent across the nation, as is the general implementation of specific legislation addressing work zone traffic violations. Similar variation can be found in funding levels and sources for enforcement activities in work zones among the states. Training of law officers prior to work zone duty does not appear to be commonly required, though the value of focused training is being recognized in some states.
As crashes and deaths continue to rise annually in our nations work zones, it is imperative that demonstrated beneficial programs such as the expanded use of law officers in these locations be continued, refined, and expanded. Future study is needed to supplement the knowledge base and provide guidance to agencies when considering the use of law enforcement to calm traffic, ensure compliance with traffic laws, and thus provide for safer work zones.