The National Academies

NCHRP 03-80 [Final]

Traffic Enforcement Strategies for Work Zones

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Research Agency: Texas A&M Research Foundation
Principal Investigator: Gerald L. Ullman
Effective Date: 7/14/2005
Completion Date: 7/28/2010


The objective of this project was to develop guidelines for safe and effective deployment of traffic enforcement strategies in work zones on high-speed highways (those with speed limits of 45 mph or greater).


The guide and final report have been published, NCHRP Report 746, Traffic Enforcement Strategies for Work Zones and Traffic Law Enforcement in Work Zones: Phase II Research.


The safety of motorists and workers in construction and maintenance work zones is a key concern of state transportation agencies. Traffic law enforcement by uniformed officers or other means can be effective in reducing undesirable driver behavior that contributes to crashes, but little objective guidance exists on selecting projects where enforcement would be most beneficial or on developing a traffic enforcement strategy for a work zone. Public awareness techniques are sometimes used to improve compliance with traffic laws (e.g., variable message signs showing the number of tickets issued, "Get the Picture. Listen to the Signs."), and guidance, based on existing information, is needed on the effectiveness of these techniques.

Although improved compliance with traffic laws would be beneficial in all work zones, traffic enforcement tends to be used more in work zones on high-speed roads because the risks are greater. This project will focus on high-speed work zones, including intersections, interchanges, and ramps that are affected by the work.

In addition to enforcing traffic laws, enforcement officers often carry out other duties in work zones (e.g., handling traffic and investigating crashes). This project does not include those types of activity.



Task 1. Survey recent literature on the effectiveness of different traffic law enforcement approaches in work zones. Identify technologies that are being used as alternatives or supplements to law enforcement personnel.

Task 2. Collect work-zone traffic enforcement policies and practices from state transportation and enforcement agencies and any existing evaluations of those policies and practices.

Task 3. Conduct eight structured group interviews in diverse regions to gain insight into the benefits of work-zone traffic enforcement and concerns with it. These groups should include law enforcement officers, field construction and maintenance personnel, traffic control plan designers, construction and maintenance contractors, and traffic control subcontractors.

Task 4. Define and evaluate safety and operational performance measures that could be used to determine the effectiveness of different enforcement approaches in work zones. Describe methods of determining those performance measures, both for research and monitoring purposes.

Task 5. Define areas of the work zone, including the approach to the back of the queue. Based on knowledge gained in Tasks 1, 2, and 3, assess the crash risk in each area. Identify those areas where traffic enforcement could be effective.

Task 6. Summarize traffic enforcement strategies that are currently used, describing, at a minimum, the personnel and technology resources used, deployment schemes, ticketing practices, scheduling of the enforcement (particularly in relationship to the work schedule), and any complementary public awareness efforts. Prepare a tabular summary of traffic enforcement strategies, the types of projects on which they are currently used, and their likelihood of affecting the Task 4 performance measures.

Task 7. Within 6 months, submit an interim report that summarizes the work done in the previous tasks, recommends strategies that warrant further evaluation, and presents a plan for the Task 8 field studies for measuring the relative effectiveness of a number of promising strategies commensurate with the project resources. The interim report should also include an annotated outline of the guidelines that will be developed in Task 9. Following review of the interim report by the NCHRP, the research team will be required to make a presentation to the project panel. Work on Phase II will not begin until the interim report is approved and the Task 8 work plan is authorized by the NCHRP.


Task 8. Conduct the approved field study plan during the construction season. The contractor will be expected to provide informative status reports on this task.

Task 9. Develop guidelines that can be used by construction, design, maintenance, and traffic engineers to incorporate traffic enforcement into work zones. The guidelines should, at a minimum, address the following questions:

  • What types of construction and maintenance projects should include traffic enforcement?
  • What enforcement strategies are effective in protecting motorists, workers, and officers? in reducing crash severity? in reducing secondary crashes? in warning drivers of the back of the queue?
  • How should the effectiveness of traffic enforcement strategies be measured?
  • How many enforcement officers should be used and where should they be located? If officers will be stopping motorists, where should that be done and how should that site be designed? When and how should alternatives to officers such as drone radars and automated enforcement be used?
  • What types of communication and coordination structures among the transportation agency, contractor, and enforcement work well?
  • How could public awareness techniques be used to effectively supplement the traffic enforcement activities?

Task 10. Submit a final report documenting the entire research effort and including the Task 9 guidelines as a stand-alone document.

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