Flagger Operations: Investigating their Effectiveness in Capturing Driver Attention

Principal Investigator

Kathleen Harder, Senior Research Associate, College of Design


  • John Hourdos, Director, MN Traffic Observatory, Civil, Environmental and Geo-Engineering

Project Summary

Work zone-related crashes are a nation-wide concern. This past year, the state of Minnesota recorded 1,700 work zone-related crashes. One of the key work zone issues involves flagger operations and flagger safety. Previous studies show that the known presence of human workers directly affects driving speed in work zones. However, driver inattention to the presence of human workers (including flaggers) is a primary safety concern. With the increase of work zone-related crashes, it is important to ensure that there is a warning system that effectively captures and sustains driver attention and fosters compliance to minimize work zone fatalities. The study continued the Principal Investigator's previous research on designing transportation environments to facilitate improved driver compliance and performance. The study investigated the effectiveness of a number of prospective "attention-grabbing" work zone elements (chosen for testing in collaboration with the Technical Advisory Panel [TAP]), first in a simulated driving simulation experiment. As part of the driving simulation study, participant drivers were also surveyed to gain insights regarding the participants' moral perspective regarding work zone driving and safety as well as the perceived effectiveness of the tested elements. The elements found to be most effective in the driving simulation experiment were used to test a new work zone warning configuration in the field. Solving the entire problem of work zone safety with one study was not anticipated, but the University expected to make substantive progress toward facilitating creative resolutions to safety-related issues now present in short-term work zones. Under this contract, the University: 1) Used a driving simulator to identify elements found to be effective in capturing driver attention and fostering compliance in work zones. 2) In a field test, evaluated the on-road effectiveness of the elements identified in the driving simulation study. 3) Contributed basic and applied knowledge to increase the level of safety in work zones.


  • Minnesota Department of Transportation
  • Minnesota Local Road Research Board

Project Details

  • Start date: 05/2013
  • Project Status: Completed
  • Research Area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow
  • Topics: Safety

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