A new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study has found electronic vehicle-mounted variable message signs (VMS) can help to protect roadside workers.

Bureau of Labor statistics show on average, two emergency responders, including tow workers, are struck and killed every month in the US by a driver who fails to obey the Move Over law, said the AAA.

The organization carried out two field studies on busy roads to determine the effectiveness of various countermeasures to protect roadside workers.

Tow workers, emergency responders, and road maintenance workers were also surveyed on their experiences with roadside jobs. Of those surveyed, 60 per cent said they had experienced a near miss while working at the roadside, while 15 per cent said they had survived being hit by a passing vehicle.

The study found with a VMS activated, drivers changed lanes and slowed down more than when the VMS was not operating and the odds of a vehicle moving over was 95 per cent higher.

Passenger vehicles were more responsive to the VMS than trucks or buses, although both were more likely to move over when VMS was active than when not, according to the study. Other countermeasures also showed positive results.

The Foundation examined cones, flares, and emergency flashing light patterns. Researchers found these led to significant lane shifts by drivers but were less effective at reducing speeds or increasing the distance to the passing vehicles that did not change lanes.

“AAA is using this research to promote the adoption of lifesaving countermeasures to protect tow workers and first responders,” said Cliff Ruud, AAA’s managing director of automotive solutions.

“AAA is sharing these findings with other impacted industries and traffic safety advocates. At the same time, AAA will continue educating drivers about the need to obey move-over laws because doing so saves lives.”