John Hourdos, Director, MN Traffic Observatory, Civil Engineering
Studies have shown that some drivers disregard or ignore traffic-control devices and other driver-warning systems in work zones. This phenomenon has led to serious crashes and fatalities in work zones. This study developed a work zone alert system that informs speeding drivers of the upcoming work zone and raises their attention level before they reach the taper line and/or work zone flag operator. The resulting system, termed Intelligent Drum Line (IDL), is capable of delivering visual and auditory warnings, targeting vehicles that are exceeding the posted or temporary speed limit upstream of the work zone. The IDL system, in its final incarnation, is the best compromise that could be reached between developing a low-cost system rugged enough to be deployed on the shoulder of high-speed roadways and made up of as few individual parts as possible so that a single worker can deploy and move the system as the work zone operations are progressing and so the system delivers a warning targeted only to vehicles going faster than the desired speed set by the work zone crew. The IDL system has been tested in the MnROAD facility, targeting vehicles ranging from regular passenger vehicles to a 3-ton snowplow truck. The auditory warning has been successful in penetrating the vehicle cab and loud enough to attract the attention of the driver. Although still in a prototype stage, the IDL system has received high marks from MnDOT engineers and work zone workers. Further development is needed to ensure that the final product is crash proof and can be produced efficiently.