The growth of vehicle travel in the United States has accelerated wear on the interstate highway system leading to frequent pavement repair and rehabilitation projects. The presence of work zones not only causes traffic congestion and backup but also increases the crash risk. Therefore, the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) has allotted a significant amount of funds to improve work zone traffic safety and operations. This thesis compares truck and automobile crash characteristics in work zones with those of non-work zones and thus identifies engineering countermeasures to improve work zone truck safety.
The researcher used a contingency analysis approach in this study. First, he categorized the North Carolina crash data using different variables. Once categorized, the Breslow-Day test is used to compare the odds of truck and automobile crashes between work zones and non-work zones. Overall, the researcher did not find a significant difference between odds of truck and automobile crashes compared to previous studies. The researcher believes that the difference in results between the present study and the previous studies could either be due to differences in the approach used or better truck management techniques employed by the North Carolina DOT (Department of Transportation). The researcher also identified that the maintenance projects performed during the day had a significantly higher odds of truck crashes relative to that of automobiles in work zones compared to control sections when workers were present, either with a lane closure or without a lane closure. The researcher believes that the results from the day maintenance projects and its subcategories are the key findings of this study.
Therefore, these key findings are used to identify the possible reasons and countermeasures for any disproportionate change in truck to automobile crashes. The identified list of countermeasures includes the use of law enforcement, a smart work zone system, a dynamic late merge system, CMS (Changeable Message Signs), speed display signs, and a CB (Citizen Band) Wizard. These countermeasures were checked for cost effectiveness using a benefit cost (B/C) analysis. The researcher found that law enforcement, smart work zones with costs lower than or equal to half a million dollars, CMS, speed display signs, and the CB Wizard have B/C ratios greater than one and seem to be worthwhile for deployment in work zones. Smart work zones with significantly higher costs of 2.5 million dollars, for example, could be deployed using a more detailed analysis of work zone characteristics. Finally, dynamic late merge system could be used if the site conditions indicate a crash reduction potential of at least 10 15 percent.