Safety Research Papers Highlight TRB's 92nd Annual Meeting

Among the findings being presented there are papers analyzing ways to reduce hazards encountered by highway emergency responders and those working inside highway work zones.

More than 11,000 transportation professionals are expected to attend the Transportation Research Board's 92nd Annual Meeting, which is taking place Jan. 13-16 at Washington, D.C.'s Washing Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. It offers a vast educational program -- more than 4,000 presentations in more than 750 sessions and workshops will address all modes of transportation used domestically and internationally, including dozens of presentations that are focused on safety topics.

Policy makers, administrators, researchers, academics, and industry professionals attend the event, which has the spotlight theme "Deploying Transportation Research - Doing Things Smarter, Better, Faster." With the exhibit space sold out, exhibit hours are set for 4-7 p.m. Jan. 13 and 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. both Jan. 14 and Jan. 15.

Among the research findings to be presented are several papers analyzing ways to reduce hazards encountered by highway emergency responders and those working inside highway work zones. One paper reports graphics-aided portable changeable message signs reduced mean vehicle speeds by 13-17 percent upstream of work zones. Other papers analyze work zone hazards and blind spots and evaluate the use of various controls, both engineering and administrative, to manage them.

Another paper's authors analyzed 265 struck-by crashes in Wisconsin from 2000-2010 and compared them with all crashes on the same roadways during that period. While crashs in which emergency responders were struck mainly involved police officers on rural interstate highways, and speeding or going "too fast for conditions" was the key driver factor in these, inattentive driving was the most significant contributing factor when work zone flagmen were struck by surrounding traffic, and those crashes "are likely uncorrelated with adverse weather, roadway or lighting conditions," according to the summary posted by TRB.

An intriguing paper discusses a risk management process to make very short duration maintenance operations safer. These may last only 15 minutes and involve tasks such as removing an object from a roadway or pothole patching, and they are risky for workers and drivers. Saying the workers tend to use their own judgment when making critical, time-sensitive decisions, the authors offer safety recommendations and a process enabling workers to identify hazards and improve their judgment about conditions and hazards.

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