Graham Scott on 25 October 2017 11:22:08
This Unipart Dorman Sequential Lamp Technology article has just been published in the IHE Technical Bulletin October 2017. The Institute of Highway Engineers is a prestigious, and highly respected trade body which we are pleased to support.
There is a joke doing the rounds which talks about people who feel trapped in demoralising jobs. To which the witty reply is “it could be worse, you could be the person in the factory who fits the indicator stalks on Sales Rep’s cars knowing they will never be used”. It isn’t just Sales Reps of course, or even drivers of certain brands or types, many drivers become a completely different animal when put behind the wheel.
Modern vehicles deliver a sense of invulnerability through substantial build quality and NCAP rated safety features, whilst a plethora of tech features like adaptive cruise control and satnav take away a lot of the driver’s interaction with their surroundings. All of this can result in drivers feeling that they are in a comfortable, impenetrable ‘bubble’ which can cause a reduction in empathy for other road users.
There is also lot more ‘pressure to deliver’ on drivers in this modern fast paced world. Whether it is the rep chasing his next sales meeting, the haulier who is trying to be on time for a slot at a warehouse, the delivery driver trying to hit often unrealistic drop time targets; or even something as simple as making the school run on time.
If you add into this pressure cooker environment, a set of roadworks which drop a dual carriageway or motorway to a single lane with a much more restrictive speed limit in force, personal stress levels will quickly start to rise in even the most serene. And then, as if that wasn’t enough to contend with, you have to cope with the driver who has waited until the very last moment to move into the correct lane. Go on. Admit it. You have pulled up really tight to the car in front of you to stop the errant driver getting in front of you. Cue more stress and bigger delays.
There have been calls for the system of ‘zip merging’ to be more widely used as there are studies showing it can reduce congestion and it is better to be in two lanes of slow moving traffic than one snarled up lane, but even though we Brits are the world leaders at queueing, woe betide anybody who is seen to get a seemingly unfair advantage.
So we have what we have but that doesn’t solve the resentment and sometimes bare aggression of drivers in both lanes. After all, there will have been wicket signs and other advance warnings of the impending lane closure placed well before the works, but they don’t seem to register with some drivers, who then engage in bad language and fist shaking at best; or at worst, hitting you or the cone line.
At crawling speed a vehicle hitting the cone line will probably cause slight vehicle damage and a bit of a red face. But it can cause nearly as much disruption to traffic flows as a taper hit at speed when you consider the time it takes to organise a team and a Response/Impact Protection Vehicle to safeguard them, get to the site (potentially entering and adding to the congested area) and do the job.
Hitting a taper at speed can and often does, prove catastrophic for roadworkers. According to RoWSAF figures in 2016 there was one fatality and 39 injuries categorised as serious (requiring an absence from work of over 7 days).
The answer is not more signage which incurs expense and actually increases the risk of death and injury to workers putting them out and recovering them, it is modifying driver behaviour.
One proven modifying strategy is rooted all the way back to our days living in caves. Without getting all David Attenborough on you, the human race is evolved from and in some parts of the planet, remains, a prey species for the biggest predators in the animal kingdom. This means our brains are hardwired to detect and react to movement as a basic survival instinct. Unipart Dorman harnessed this trait when it introduced its SynchroGUIDE sequential lamp system, which uses a bright pulse of light that appears to travel along the taper line. This significantly increases driver awareness of an impending closure and allows them to make an earlier decision to move lane.
Sequential lamps have been subject to 2 significant studies into their effectiveness, one in the UK done by the Highways Agency on the M42 in 2005 and one carried out by the University of Missouri in 2011. Both studies used vehicle position data and modelling to demonstrate that sequential lights delivered a significant reduction in vehicles making late lane changes.
Unipart Dorman has always been at the forefront of improving roadworker safety from its introduction of the first electric road danger lamps into the UK back in the mid-1960s, through the introduction of high performance LED light sources as used in the ConeLITE, which has sold over 2 million units in the UK alone, to introduction of the SynchroGUIDE and ConeLITE Synchro sequential lamps; by not only reducing their exposure to high speed traffic during the setting out and recovery process but from the dangers from taper strike. Further evidence of the strong commitment to improving safety has been the collaboration with Highway Resource Solutions on their Intellicone products which have also been subjected to studies showing their effectiveness at warning workers of not only taper incursions but also the recent phenomenon of drivers taking short cuts through roadworks.
There are always going to the exceptions to rule and you will still get who thinks that haring down the lane about to be closed will save that all important 45 seconds.
Sequential Lamps offered by Unipart Dorman go a long way to reducing taper strikes and making sure everybody gets home safely every night. Whether road worker or road user, all lives matter equally.