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Toll Facility Safety Study Report to Congress

5. Summary

This report described a study to investigate issues surrounding worker and motorist safety in the vicinity of toll collection facilities. The study was undertaken in direct response to Section 1403 of SAFETEA-LU legislation, and is focused on accomplishing two main objectives:

  1. To study the incidence of accidents and injuries in the vicinity of highway toll collection facilities.
  2. To study the safety of toll collection facilities for workers and motorists - and to document strategies for improving toll plaza safety.

The study involved a review of existing literature, a survey of toll operators, site visits to 7 agencies, interviews with 21 agencies, a workshop with representatives from 20 agencies, and an analysis of available worker injury and motorist crash data.

To address the first goal of the study, the team analyzed available data on accidents and injuries occurring in the vicinity of toll booths. While the team examined several trends in the data, the data obtained was not broad enough or consistent enough to allow national conclusions to be drawn or to fully examine trends.

The data did show that approximately one-quarter of workplace injuries occurring at toll plazas are the result of general falls, slips, and trips (28 percent). Other common injuries are those resulting from being struck by an object (11 percent), and from pulling, lifting, or pushing an object (9 percent). In terms of the types of injuries that occur most frequently, the most common injury types reflected in the data obtained were cuts, scrapes, and abrasions (22 percent), strains (18 percent), pains (11 percent), and sprains (11 percent).

The accident data showed that of 406 crashes where the location was reported, approximately half (52 percent) occurred at the plaza. Of the remaining crashes, approximately 37 percent occurred upstream of the plaza, and approximately 11 percent occurred downstream of the plaza.

It is important to note that the study did not find evidence to suggest that toll collector fatalities are a frequent occurrence at toll plazas. The extensive accident and injury records obtained through this study did not include any fatalities, and the project team learned of only one fatality through agency interviews.In order to compare data across toll facilities to make industry-wide observations and conclusions, the study team recommends that standardized reporting procedures be implemented for accident and injury data, and that a centralized database be created and maintained to store this data and organize it in a searchable format. In addition, the team recommends that a field be added to the FARS to denote whether a crash occurred within the vicinity of a toll plaza.

To address the second goal of the study, the team gathered information though a survey, telephone interviews, and site visits. These activities revealed information about a number of safety challenges that toll authorities face across the United States. These activities also revealed that authorities across the country are implementing a wide range of safety strategies with success, and that many of these strategies could be effective for other agencies.

These strategies, which span a wide range of issues, and tackle a wide range of safety challenges, were vetted with representatives from 20 of the Nation's toll agencies in a facilitated workshop setting in order to obtain feedback from individuals in the field on the perceived effectiveness of each strategy and of any concerns and/or constraints that they may see or have with any particular strategy. As the operating conditions, culture, etc., are different at each agency and even at each toll plaza in some cases, the strategies are presented not as recommendations, but as ideas for agencies to consider when seeking ways to improve safety for workers and motorists at their toll collection facilities.

The findings were presented in four categories with the first two focusing directly on the issues called for in the legislation:

  • Design of toll facilities - this includes the effect of design or construction of the facilities on the likelihood of vehicle collisions with the facilities; the safety of crosswalks used by toll collectors in transit to and from toll booths; the use of warning devices, such as vibration and rumble strips, to alert drivers approaching the facilities; and the use of traffic control arms in the vicinity of the facilities.
  • Enforcement practices - this includes the extent of the enforcement of speed limits in the vicinity of the facilities; the use of cameras to record traffic violations in the vicinity of the facilities; and law enforcement practices and jurisdictional issues that affect safety in the vicinity of the facilities.

The final two categories present additional information that was uncovered during this study that is still very relevant to the topic of highway safety at toll plazas, but that does not directly address the requirements of the legislation:

  • Maintenance practices - this includes strategies focused on reducing the occurrence of incidents and injuries related to maintenance activities in and around toll plazas.
  • Human factors issues - this includes strategies focused on reducing the incidence of vehicles stopping or backing up in high-speed lanes, mitigating sensory overload, and mitigating driver inattention.

Beyond these four categories, the study also uncovered information about other safety challenges at toll plazas that are not highway-related - such as ergonomics, worker exposure to the environment, and worker risk of assault.

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Updated: 06/27/2017
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