Road Builders Keep Workers Safe With Innovative Traffic Control Devices

Utilizing Technology Can Save Lives

Fatal highway incidents are the most frequent type of fatal work-related event in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 1,329 fatal highway incidents in 2006. Human flaggers and police officers directing traffic are often struck by passing vehicles or construction vehicles. In fact, the BLS reports that workers are more likely to be struck and killed by construction vehicles and equipment than automobiles. 

The risk of incidents like these is increasing, because the majority of today’s road construction work is based on maintaining the country’s current infrastructure rather than building new roads. Construction workers must contend with the traffic on these roads in use. 

In an effort to reduce the number of these tragedies, contractors and municipalities across the country are using technology by replacing human flaggers with Automated Flagger Assistance Devices (AFADs) and specifically remote controlled flagging devices. 

The Federal Highway Administration granted interim approval of certain AFADs, including North America Traffic’s Remote Controlled Flagman, model RCF 2.4, in 2005, which allows contractors to use the device on roadways in the U.S. 

Remote controlled flagmen protect workers as well as drivers in several ways: 

First, they are operated by radio remote control from a distance of up to 1000 feet, allowing the flagger to stand off the roadway and out of danger from passing vehicles or construction vehicles backing up in the work zone. 

One operator can control multiple units at a distance by remote control or one operator can control traffic at one end of the work zone with a stop slow paddle and control the unit at the opposite end with a remote control. 

Second, drivers can see remote controlled flagmen at a further distance than human flaggers, providing them more time to slow down or stop. Remote controlled flagmen typically have red and yellow signals, so they are easily recognizable. When fully erected the signal head sits nine feet high. 

The cost of the remote controlled flagman has dropped in the last few years and new technology makes them very quick and easy to set up, often requiring less than a minute to set up a single device. They run on battery power charged by solar panels and provide 

ample runtime during the construction season. New models are trailer-mounted and compact with tandem towing capability. 

Remote control flagman devices have been used on thousands projects throughout the United States since 2001. Over the past eight years, several state Departments of Transportation from Ohio to Alaska have conducted experiments with the device with favorable results. Typical experimentation consisted of placing the units in a work zone application and observing motorist response to the devices as well as conducting worker and motorist opinion surveys. 

As long as the majority of road work in progress in the U.S. involves repairing roads that are already in use, this safety concern will continue to grow. As more contractors and municipalities become aware of the remote controlled flagman’s safety benefits, they will become a mainstay in the road and bridge construction industry. 

About the Author 

Peter Vieveen built the first Remote Controlled Flagman™ in 1993. He is the president of North America Traffic which is based in Ontario, Canada. To date North America Traffic’s portable traffic control devices have been used on over 1,500 projects throughout the US. He can be contacted atpeter@northamericatraffic.com

About North America Traffic 

North America Traffic was launched as R.C. Flagman in 1993 when Peter Vieveen built the world’s first Remote Controlled Flagman™ out of his garage. At the time, Mr. Vieveen was a senior estimator in the construction industry with over 25 years of construction experience. He understood the importance of reducing costs while increasing safety. North America Traffic now operates a full production facility, and its products have been used on over 1,500 projects across North America. Today, it is the world leader in traffic control systems, with 8 different models of portable traffic signals and flagging systems to meet all traffic control needs. For more information, visit www.northamericatraffic.com. 

Editor’s Note: Hi-res photo is available at RCF 2.4