"It's not really so much about trying to be sneaky as just trying to do the right thing," says Major Grady Carrick, commander of Jacksonville's Troop G, which launched the program July 26. "The construction zones, they are just so dangerous," Carrick says.

GOTCHA Radar is hard to spot, even for truckers. (Photo courtesy of Phil Long/Miami Herald)

The tally of 2001 work-zone fatalities released Aug. 15 by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration bears him out. It shows 886 work-zone fatalities in 2001, up from 873 the year before. When maintenance, utility and other work-zone fatalities are included, the deaths rose from 1,026 in 2000 to 1,079 last year.

The Associated General Contractors, Alexandria Va., has identified construction work-zone safety as "a paramount concern" in its campaign for influencing revisions to TEA-21, the federal highway, highway safety and transit funding program for the six-year period ending Oct. 2003. One of the association's specific objectives is to push for increased law enforcement in construction work areas, which tends to slow traffic down. And the group has a new work-zone safety committee to work on the issue.

Safety was one of the goals of the Florida program, too. "We would encourage that," says Brian Deery, senior director of AGC's highway division. "We think just slowing the traffic down has a significant impact on safety."

But Deery believes that "this is the kind of issue that is not going to be solved by one bullet." Other AGC goals include standardizing requirements in work zones so that the use of safety devices, such as signage that shows driver speed, or positive separation barriers, will not put contractors at a competitive disadvantage. "If they think it is necessary and they put that into their bid, they might not be the low bidder," Deery says. He says AGC plans to ask Congress to allow states to fund such equipment through federal discretionary funds.

In Florida, Operation Hardhat now is being rolled out to all of the state's 10 highway patrol districts. Commanders are encouraged to follow the guidelines of the early trials. "We try to minimize interference with contractors," says Carrick. "In some cases it works out favorably having the construction there–new asphalt on the shoulders and lanes that are not open yet." He adds that the patrol's policy of avoiding chases where there is not a crime of violence also will prevent Hardhat from creating a hazard to work crews.

peration hardhat, a Florida Highway Patrol initiative that uses troopers with radar guns posing as surveyors in highway work zones, has gotten off to a rousing start, with tickets flying at a rate of 30 an hour and speeding truckers getting caught at about 10 times the usual rate.