Evaluation of Technology-Enhanced Flagger Devices: Focus Group and Survey Studies in KansasAuthor/Presenter: Schrock, Steven D.; See, Chen Fei; Saadi, Jamila; Chong, Wai Kiong â€œOswaldâ€; Bai, Yong
instiFlagger-controlled work zones, by their very nature tend to utilize fewer traffic control measures than other work zones. Often these work zones are in place for only a short duration of time, so adding signing or positive protection beyond the minimum guidance directed by the MUTCD is rarely done. In these situations, the flagger is the key to effective traffic control, and so his/her visibility and conspicuity are critical to keeping motorists and workers safe. In an effort to increase flaggers’ visibility and conspicuity, several vendors have begun marketing STOP/SLOW paddles, personal protective equipment, and other ancillary devices equipped with various technologies – typically including embedded LED lighting. While a wide variety of studies have been undertaken to evaluate the technology-enhanced flagger devices, there has been little effort to examine these devices on the basis of perceived usefulness to field personnel and understanding by motorists. This study was aimed at obtaining responses from field personnel regarding the perceived usefulness and workability of these devices, while synthesizing the effects of these technology-enhanced devices based on flagger focus groups and driver survey responses. The results of the focus groups revealed that weight of devices, conspicuity of flaggers, and awareness of drivers were among the influential criteria for field personnel to opt for a flashing STOP/SLOW paddle over a standard paddle. Interestingly, the standard 24” STOP/SLOW paddle and the standard fluorescent yellow safety vest with orange striping emerged to be favorites among focus group participants over other technology-enhanced equipment displayed. Additionally, 72 percent of participants agreed that red and/or amber LED lighting attached to cones appeared to have the best potential for large visibility gains, versatility of applications, and ease of use. For the motorist surveys, only 28 percent of drivers indicated that they saw the STOP sign or flagger in work zones when enquired about the things that they observed. When asked about their opinions regarding the displayed STOP sign, 74 percent of in-favor drivers stated that it commanded their attention or fulfilled a need, whereas 86 percent of those not in-favor indicated that they either did not see it or thought it was hard to see. Also, more than half (54 percent) of the surveyed drivers did not think that the flashing STOP/SLOW paddles indicated a more important situation than if the paddle did not flash. Overall, only 26 percent of drivers stated that they drove differently because of the flashing STOP/SLOW paddles.