What is a Smart Work Zone System ( SWZS ) ?

A Smart Work Zone System also abbreviated SWZS is a system that uses technology to give motorists real-time traffic information to increase safety and allow them to make safer, more efficient driving choices as they approach a work zone.

What makes a Smart Work Zone System “Smart”?

Smart Work Zone Systems (also known as SWZS) are called smart because they use technology such as radar, Bluetooth, cameras, and computer systems to monitor traffic and provide real-time information.

Smart Work Zone Systems can provide information to travelers right when they need it, most commonly on roadside changeable message signs or flashing road signs (In addition, websites, email alerts, etc, can be used to allow better decision-making before starting on a trip).

The messages provided can include travel times and alternate routes, warnings of sudden slow-downs in time to prevent collision, and warnings of immediate hazards such as trucks entering the highway.

Messages can also improve roadway management by providing dynamic merge points or other features that improve roadway flow-through, and help reduce back-ups.  QLynx Technologies provides portable smart work zone equipment and also integrates fixed ITS equipment already in place.

The other reason these systems are smart is because of the benefits they can provide, Saving Lives, Money and Time, and Reducing Driver Frustration.

What are the benefits of a Smart Work Zone System?

When properly designed and implemented, Smart Work Systems can:

  • Reduce Accidents and Save Lives by making work zones safer for highway workers and motorists.
  • Better inform motorists and reduce their frustrations
  • Encourage motorists to take alternate routes
  • Reduce congestion and allow more freely flowing traffic
  • Clear incidents more quickly, thereby reducing secondary incidents

Smart Work Zone Systems Save Lives

The dangers associated with Freeway work zones are serious.

  • FHWA 2012 Data: 1,200 deaths and 40,000 injuries in work zones (1)
  • Freeway work zones have higher than normal crash rates
  • Occupational Deaths: According to the CDC, highway transportation incidents are the leading cause of occupational fatality in the U.S. (2)
  • Sudden slow-downs in work zones often do not leave drivers sufficient time to stop and avoid collision with other vehicles, or with highway workers.

Smart Work Zone Systems help save lives:

  • Independent research has shown smart work zone systems to reduce injury crash frequency which may lead to improved survivability. (3)
  • Smart Work Zone Systems have also been shown in other studies to reduce speeding and calm traffic. (4)

Smart Work Zone Systems Save Time

FHWA 2012 Data: 482,000,000 vehicle hours lost in driver delay times in work zones (1)

  • Smart Work Zone Systems can provide real-time warnings of delays and suggest alternate routes to travelers, saving time and reducing frustration.

Smart Work Zone Systems Save Money

About $6.5 billion dollars, the value of 482 million hours, not including lost wages and lawsuits from deaths or injuries.

  • Studies have concluded that Smart Work Zone Systems save more money than they cost.  A recent study by Bushman et al showed a benefit to cost ratio between 1.2 to 11.9 (5)
  • A 2005 study showed the cost/benefit ratio for travel time systems to be much greater than 1, even without considering safety, fuel, or emissions impacts. (6).


(1) FHWA 2012, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/resourcecenter/teams/operations/ops_3TWZ.pdf, site visited December 2013.

(2) Occupational Highway Transportation Deaths Among Workers Aged ≥55 Years — United States, 2003–2010, CDC Website, August 23, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6233a1.htm?s_cid=mm6233a1_e

(3) Lachhwani and Horowitz, Criteria for Portable ATIS, Center for Urban Transportation Studies, University of Wisconsin, October 2005, p23

(4) Lachhwani and Horowitz, Criteria for Portable ATIS, Center for Urban Transportation Studies, University of Wisconsin, October 2005, p63

(5) Bushman et al, Probabilistic performance model for evaluation of a smart work zone deployment, 2007, http://ecommons.usask.ca/handle/10388/etd-03192007-142727

(6) Lachhwani and Horowitz, Criteria for Portable ATIS, Center for Urban Transportation Studies, University of Wisconsin, October 2005, p61