Use of Police in Work Zones on Highways in Virginia

Report No: 04-R9

Published in 2003

About the report:

It is generally accepted that one of the most effective ways of controlling speed in a work zone is to have a staffed police car positioned at the beginning of the work zone with its lights flashing and radar on. Drivers detect the presence of police either visually or via radar detectors and reduce their speed to comply with the posted work zone speed limit. The reduced speeds and reduced variation in speeds result in fewer accidents and minimize dangerous interactions between vehicles and work zone workers and equipment. A number of studies support these observations. The use of police enforcement in work zones is a common practice among state departments of transportation, and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is no exception. VDOT has an agreement with the Virginia State Police (VSP) for paying for and implementing the strategy in VDOT work zones and a mutually developed set of guidelines for using police enforcement. The purpose of the research was to document the current practices regarding the use of police in work zones in Virginia and to determine if any enhancements could be made. The research effort consisted of literature reviews to establish the background for police enforcement in work zones, discussion with and input from VDOT and VSP personnel, and the administration of a questionnaire survey. A questionnaire survey was sent to personnel in VDOT, VSP, and VMS, Inc., asking the respondent's opinion about the effectiveness of using police in work zones and a number of questions about the work zone enforcement practices being used. The use of police in work zones was almost unanimously felt to be effective in reducing speeds and improving safety in work zones, and few adverse effects were noted. Recommendations were made regarding the development and implementation of training in basic work zone operations, the development of a standard agreement for possible use with local police agencies, the use of more than one police officer, the promotion of the maximum $500 fine for speeding in work zones, the requirement that police officers wear safety vests when outside their vehicle in a work zone, and the development of a standard pay practice for cancellations.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


  •  E. D. Arnold

Last updated: December 1, 2023

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