An Online Guide to Reducing Work Zone Intrusions
Using Positive Protection

What is Positive Protection?


Illustration of how positive protection prevents longitudinal and lateral work zone crashes.
Positive Protection Barriers provide separation and help prevent longitudinal and lateral crashes into work zones.

Positive Protection are measures “between workers and motorized traffic” which “contain and/or redirect vehicles" and meet applicable crashworthiness criteria . 1, 2

Positive Protection may include highly mobile barrier, movable and temporary steel barrier, movable concrete barrier, traditional concrete barrier, associated cushions, and other strategies to avoid traffic accidents in work zones including full road closure. 3

Mobile and other movable barriers enable field crews to quickly create work spaces that are physically separated from moving traffic and quickly removed from the roadway once the work is completed.

Examples of Positive Protection devices

The rising number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities highlight the need for positive protection. In a 2019 survey, 67% of highway contractors reported crashes into their work zones and 89% think positive protection would improve safety on their projects. 4

New types of Positive Protection Barriers have made work zone safety practical and cost-effective. California research found a cost benefit for highly mobile barrier of $1.9 million per year, per barrier. 14

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Introductory Quote

"We have the technology and 'know how' to build our roadway system to anticipate user error. It can be designed, constructed, equipped, and operated to forgive the errant user and protect the innocent victim."


"We have the technology and 'know how' to build our roadway system to anticipate user error. It can be designed, constructed, equipped, and operated to forgive the errant user and protect the innocent victim."

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Work Zone Crashes, Injuries, & Fatalities


Work zone fatalities reached a 16-year high in 2020. 27 Between 2013 and 2020, work zone fatalities increased 45%. In 2020, over 102,000 work zone crashes were estimated to have occured resulting in over 45,000 injuries and 857 fatalities. 8, 9 Economic costs of these crashes have been estimated at over $17.5 billion annually. 28, 29

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, work zone crashes & fatalities climbed despite lower traffic volumes. 20, 21, 22, 23, 32, 33 The Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA) projected that the U.S. pedestrian fatality rate jumped an unprecedented 21% from 2019. 34 A prior study found that 38% of "Pedestrian" fatalities in work zones were workers (i.e. road construction/maintenance workers, utility workers, and planning/surveying workers). The serious hazards faced by people working on foot on or along our roadways, who are among the most "Vulnerable Road Users", highlights the need for positive protection measures.

For the first half of 2021, USDOT estimates another 18.4% surge in traffic fatalities over 2020 and the largest number of traffic fatalities since 2006. 35 In 2021, TxDOT reported that work zone fatalities in fact surged 33%. 36

More motorists and road workers are being killed or injured in preventable work zone crashes. In a 2022 survey, most highway contractors (64%) reported crashes into their work zones. In an earlier survey, 89% of highway contractors think positive protection would help improve safety and prevent these horrific crashes. 38, 4

The rising number of accidents, injuries, and fatalities highlight the need for positive protection. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA) amends the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) to add protection for "Vulnerable Road Users", which includes road construction workers and people working on foot on or along our roadways. In 2021, USDOT set the value of a single life (VSL) at $11.8 million dollars. 13, 37 California research found a cost benefit for highly mobile barrier of $1.9 million per year, per barrier. 14


"It's as if we were living through a war... When it comes to roadway deaths, we have a crisis that’s urgent, unacceptable - and preventable. "

"Blaming human error alone is convenient, but it places all Americans in greater danger."

"Motorists will inevitably make mistakes. Too often they pay for their mistakes with their lives – or the lives of innocent bystanders.... We have the technology and 'know how' to build our roadway system to anticipate user error. It can be designed, constructed, equipped, and operated to forgive the errant user and protect the innocent victim."


"We have the technology and 'know how' to build our roadway system to anticipate user error. It can be designed, constructed, equipped, and operated to forgive the errant user and protect the innocent victim."

AGC Study - Outcomes of Work Zone Crashes 38,
(Mouseover data points for details.)

AGC Study - Percentage of Highway Contractors
Reporting Work Zone Crashes Over Time 38, 26, 25, 4, 5, 6, 7, 19, 18, 17


The 2019 AGC study revealed that an increasing percentage of contractors believe positive protection would improve safety on their projects.

  • 89% of contractors report that increased use of positive protection barriers would help reduce injuries and fatalities on their projects.
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