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How Work Zone Signs Protect Road Crews

October 25, 2019

The modern work zone sign can be instantly recognized by its orange color, diamond shape and pictograph of a stick figure doing work. The sign has a black border around the image or text. Here are key points to know about these signs placed on roads where road work is conducted.

Variations of Work Zone Sign Messages:

  • Work Zone
  • Slow Work Zone Ahead
  • Road Work Next 5 Miles
  • Begin Work Zone
  • End Work Zone
  • Road Work Ahead
  • Workers Ahead
  • Flaggers Ahead
  • One Lane Road Ahead
  • Reduced Speed Ahead
  • Road Closed Ahead
  • Evacuation Route

Alternative Images

A wide range of pictographs can be used for work zone signs as long as the image matches the sign message. The sign can reflect specific conditions involved with the road work, such as a rough or closed road. Examples of different types of images that represent work include a figure with a shovel, broom or flag. There might need to be accompanying signs with arrows for road closures and detours.

How Many Signs Are Necessary?

The answer to the question of how many signs are needed to protect a road crew comes down to case-by-case scenarios. If the construction area is limited, you won’t need as many signs, but drivers should still be warned ahead of time so they can slow down effectively. Keep in mind if it’s a two-way road, the signs should appear on both sides of the roadway.

Drivers perceive distances differently than ground-level traffic control flaggers, so work zone barriers must be placed accordingly. These barriers that accompany signs include cones and barriers.

Research on Most Effective Signs

The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse at publishes various driving studies. In 2019 the organization published a report on how driving speeding behavior is affected by work zone signage. The three types of signs used in the study were speed photo enforced, dynamic speed display and reduced speed limit signs.

The study of 66 participants was conducted on a driving simulator using a virtual work zone patterned after Maryland Highway 295, known as the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. From over 250 driving sessions, the authors found that speed enforced signs were the most effective. A second photo enforced sign placed in the zone helped slow down traffic more than the initial sign warning of work ahead.

Temporary Work Zone Signs

The effectiveness of temporary work zone signage was studied by the Construction Research Congress in 2018. This study was based on 500 survey questionnaires of drivers through Amazon Mechanical Turk to learn about what types of signs work best. It turned out a majority of drivers favor dynamic signs over static signs, other than posted speed limit signs. When it comes to temporary work zones, drivers want to know distance and time through the work zone.

Temporary work zone signs cover a wide variety of messages, but the choice of sign language must be approved by MUTCD and the state. In Arizona, common signs in this category include “Pilot Car Follow Me” and “No Pavement Markings Next 00 Miles.” A pilot car is a passenger vehicle such as a car, truck or van used to escort trucks with large loads. They can be used to guide drivers through construction areas.


When it comes to work zone signage, you cannot afford to cut corners on safety. The most reliable way to protect road workers is through orange warning signs that influence drivers to slow down as they approach the zone. Contact Zumar at our Arizona, California or Washington location to learn more about long-term or short-term sign strategies.

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