Drivers go faster than what they think is safe in roadworks zones

Drivers go faster than what they think is safe in roadworks zones
Drivers go faster than what they think is safe in roadwork zones.

Drivers are traveling about 10km/h faster than they think they should through roadwork zones, according to a new QUT study which compared the speed drivers think is safe to how fast they are actually going.

Dr Ashim Debnath, from QUT's Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q), has researched the behaviours of speeding through roadwork zones and found drivers ignore their own judgement when it comes to getting behind the wheel.

Dr Debnath said in an online survey, more than 400 Queensland drivers were shown images of roadwork zones without limit signs and asked to nominate the speed they would drive.

He said actual driving speeds at the same roadwork zones were measured and later compared with the speeds drivers nominated in the survey.

"We found drivers were likely to nominate a lower speed than what they would actually travel at," he said.

"This is of concern because drivers are essentially ignoring their own judgment of how fast they should be driving and what they consider to be a 'safe' speed."

Dr Debnath said the study also found drivers exceeded posted speed limits through roadwork sites, with cars the worst offenders.

"The results showed that light vehicles such as cars and their followers were more likely to speed than trucks, along with leaders of convoys with a larger front gap between them and the vehicle ahead," he said.

"The study also revealed driver speeds were highest after passing the first speed reduction sign, suggesting reduced speed limits in upstream work zones may have limited effects on travel speeds."

Dr Debnath said drivers did slow down as they were passing through the roadwork zones, however many drivers still exceeded the limits at all monitoring points.

"Night-time speeds were significantly higher than daytime speeds, while drivers significantly slowed close to a stop/slow traffic controller," Dr Debnath said.

A related study showed that enforcement and variable message signage warning of police radars had the greatest effects on reducing speeds.

Dr Debnath said the study aimed to better understand the behaviours of speeding drivers through roadwork zones to help identify ways to improving compliance with speed limits.

"Little is known about the speeding behaviour of drivers in Australian roadwork zones and how their compliance with speed limits could be improved," he said.

"What we know is that speeding is common in roadwork zones and contributes to crashes.

"Statistics from other countries show that crashes in roadwork zones occur at higher rates compared to outside work zones, with speed cited as a contributing factor in about 42 per cent of all roadwork crashes."

Dr Debnath said roadwork were there for a good reason – to keep travel speeds within a safe range to ensure the safety of both motorists and roadworkers.

"It is important that motorists drive within posted limits to make Australian roadwork zones safer," he said.


Explore further

Drivers fed up with slowing down at inactive roadwork sites

More information: Ashim Kumar Debnath et al. A comparison of self-nominated and actual speeds in work zones, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.trf.2015.10.019

Ashim Kumar Debnath et al. A Tobit model for analyzing speed limit compliance in work zones, Safety Science (2014). DOI: 10.1016/j.ssci.2014.07.012

Citation: Drivers go faster than what they think is safe in roadworks zones (2016, May 17) retrieved 19 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-05-drivers-faster-safe-roadworks-zones.html
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May 17, 2016
"This is of concern because drivers are essentially ignoring their own judgment of how fast they should be driving and what they consider to be a 'safe' speed."


No it isn't. The drives are rather subconciously "pleasing" the questioner by saying they should be going much slower than they actually were, because of the cognitive dissonance produced by breaking a rule.

It's a kind of guilt compensation because almost everyone really thinks the roadworks speed limits are too low and misplaced. Most of the time they're on the roadside even if the work hasn't started yet, has already finished, or the workers have gone home for the day. They tend to avoid the rush hours, so it's actually rare to see men actually at work - yet the signs are there.

People's judgement is different when they're actually at the roadworks, because crawling half a kilometer on a highway at 30 kph with no danger in sight is just frustrating and pointless, so they knowingly bend the rules.

May 17, 2016
Point in case
http://phys.org/n...tml#nRlv
Drivers frustrated at slowing down at inactive roadwork sites are ignoring reduced speed limits, a QUT study has found.

speed limit credibility was being put at risk when reduced speed limits and related traffic controls remained in place at inactive roadwork sites.

"It's seen as crying wolf. If people are asked to slow down at roadwork sites but find there is no roadwork being undertaken they become de-sensitised to the signage and ignore speed limits,"

"Our survey showed road workers on site had the biggest impact on drivers to reduce speed

May 17, 2016
I'm with Eikka. SPOT ON.

I'll add that if they want PROPER compliance then simply mount mobile speed radars in the work zones. Hey they have speed cameras for so called dangerous hot spots, so why not for roadworks?

Interseting Eikka, how this 2016 QUT study seems to ignore the study they did in 2014. Seems like QUT is the problem, not the drivers hehehehehehe

May 19, 2016
Furthermore:

"Statistics from other countries show that crashes in roadwork zones occur at higher rates compared to outside work zones, with speed cited as a contributing factor in about 42 per cent of all roadwork crashes."


Surprise surprise: the roadworks is a disruption in the traffic flow and confuses drivers because people are asked to slow down for no discernible reason, which some then do and some don't.

That's a great receipe for getting rear-ended, and the fault will be "speeding" because you're technically supposed to go slow.

Any disruption in the normal flow of traffic is going to produce more accidents. In other words, it's not the speed that causes the accidents but the presence of the roadworks speed limits which are left in place even though the site is inactive and there's no danger from the roadworks.

The larger irony is that speed cameras too increase the accident rates at the camera, while doing nothing about speeding elsewhere.


May 19, 2016
"This is of concern because drivers are essentially ignoring their own judgment of how fast they should be driving and what they consider to be a 'safe' speed."

I'll give an alternative interpretation:

Almost every driver thinks he/she is an above average driver. So if you ask a driver what speed should be allowed they respond to what speed an - in their view - an *average* driver should go at.

"The study also revealed driver speeds were highest after passing the first speed reduction sign, suggesting reduced speed limits in upstream work zones may have limited effects on travel speeds."


How is this surprising? It's the FIRST speed reduction sign. The speed allowed before that was, by definition, higher. Many people get off the accelerator AT the sign. So, of course, will the speed be highest just past the first sign.

May 19, 2016
Most of the time they're on the roadside even if the work hasn't started yet, has already finished, or the workers have gone home for the day.

Well, it does take time to place/remove these signs and requires the shutting down of lanes in order to do so safely, which means greater congestion and delay. One possible solution would be to use just electronic signs that can be switched on/off as necessary.

May 22, 2016
Well, it does take time to place/remove these signs and requires the shutting down of lanes in order to do so safely


The sign is by the side of the road. Takes a whole 5 minutes to put a bag over it when the work is done for the day, or to turn it to face the other way.

May 22, 2016
Almost every driver thinks he/she is an above average driver.


And most drivers are correct, because there is a small minority of very terrible drivers against a large majority of more or less equally competent drivers. If you put all the drivers to a driving test that measures everyday driving competence, more than half the drivers will score higher than the average.

Imagine a distribution of test scores from ten drivers
10,9,9,9,8,8,8,7,5,4
Average 7.7
In this score distribution, 70% of the drivers are better than the average driver. Much the same thing happens in reality - most people drive just fine, but there's always one idiot or someone who got their driver's license yesterday.

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