University of Missouri readies work zone safety innovations

Oct. 10, 2023
Researchers tap into research projects funded by $1.5 million.

Researchers at the University of Missouri are looking to leverage its 30-plus years of expertise in highway work zone safety research to help keep drivers and workers safe during the upcoming expansion of Interstate 70.

Work on the roadway, which connects St. Louis and Kansas City, has been estimated to take five to seven years.

The Missouri Work Zone Safety Center of Excellence (MOWZES), established at the university’s College of Engineering, has as its goal to lead research and outreach on developing behavioral, educational, engineering, and technology solutions to achieve zero fatalities and serious injuries in work zones. These efforts are being supported by several current research projects exceeding $1.5 million in combined funding from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

“Fatalities and serious injuries continue to be on the rise in highway work zones, with data showing a disproportionate amount of distracted driving, speeding, and commercial motor vehicle involvement in these crashes.”--Praveen Edara

“Fatalities and serious injuries continue to be on the rise in highway work zones, with data showing a disproportionate amount of distracted driving, speeding, and commercial motor vehicle involvement in these crashes,” said Praveen Edara, founding director of MOWZES, in a statement. “The center establishes a one-stop resource for transportation and industry partners within the state of Missouri by leveraging our existing strengths in research and our collaborative partnerships. As part of a land-grant university, our mission is to help the citizens of our state, and we all use highways and travel through work zones.”   

Missouri work zone safety initiatives

The center’s research efforts, which are aligned with U.S. Department of Transportation’s promoting safety research priority area and MoDOT’s Show-Me Zero initiative, will focus on four key areas:

  • Integration of emerging technologies such as smart work zones and autonomous vehicles.
  • Use of data and tools such as artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to improve safety and predict crash risk.
  • Developing countermeasures to address distracted driving and other adverse driving behaviors to improve worker safety.
  • Developing accommodations for vulnerable road users such as bicyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities.

“During peak season, MoDOT has 800 work zones active every day,” said Ed Hassinger, deputy director and chief engineer at MoDOT, in a statement. “Having the Missouri Work Zone Safety Center of Excellence as a resource will be a great asset in our efforts to drive down work zone fatalities and serious injuries.”

The center, overseen by an advisory board of public, private and academic partners, also uses MU’s transportation simulation lab, ZouSim, to study innovative solutions without putting drivers or others on the road at risk before they are ready for real-life implementation.

Source: University of Missouri

About the Author

Rod Sutton

I have served as the editorial lead of Construction Equipment magazine and ConstructionEquipment.com since 2001. 

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