Everything You Need To Know About Traffic Cones (From The Experts)

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Traffic Cones Keep America Moving

Each day, over 227 million drivers climb into their cars and take to the roads. Daily commuters sit in traffic on highways or city streets and take in the scenery, which most likely includes fluorescent orange traffic cones. From surrounding construction sites to alerting shoppers to a wet floor, traffic cones are used in areas where pedestrians and drivers need to be warned of a dangerous area. It is believed that, at any given moment, about 140 million traffic cones are used globally. That’s a lot of traffic cones! Even though they are a part of our daily lives, have you ever given thought to the science behind traffic cone placement? Probably not a whole lot! If you are looking to set up traffic safety cones around your construction site, planning traffic flow for an event, or are merely curious about these popular roadway tools, then take a look at this comprehensive guide to traffic cones.

What Can Safety Cones Be Used For?

As we mentioned before, traffic cones are the unsung hero of the traffic delineator world: they are seen every day but rarely considered. Take a look at all the places traffic safety cones are used to create safe environments. Traffic cones divide lanes of traffic, provide direction around road maintenance and utility projects, and alert drivers to difficult to see hazards such as:
  • Raised Manhole Covers
  • Potholes
  • Rough Terrain
  • Sharp Turns
  • Low Shoulders
  • Stalled vehicles or crashes
We also see traffic cones used outside of construction to guide pedestrian traffic. Traffic cones are often used in recreational and business settings like:
  • On Athletic Fields
  • In Parking Lots
  • For Indoor Events
  • Valet Parking 
  • Crosswalks

How Are Traffic Safety Cones Used For Roadway Construction?

Traffic cones are commonly used for road safety because they are designed for high visibility. Cones attach to a sturdy black base, which prevents it from toppling over and creating a traffic hazard. When traffic safety cones are used in roadwork, they need to be correctly placed for maximum work zone safety. According to the MUTCD, shorter traffic cones, used for lower-speed conditions, are at least 18 inches tall. Like a highway, high-speed areas require more giant, 28-inch tall traffic cones because the MUTCD states they are more visible and better direct traffic from a distance. Basic Construction Cone Requirements:
  • Must be orange
  • Made of PVC to avoid vehicle damage
  • Must have a reflective collar for nighttime use
  • Must be heavy enough to withstand any weather
Orange safety cones are most commonly used to create buffer zones, also known as buffer space. A buffer zone is an area created by traffic cones that separate workers from oncoming traffic or other hazardous situations. Buffer zones’ width and length depending on the speed of traffic. Road cones should be placed close enough to prevent vehicles from maneuvering into the buffer zone and to allow reaction time for motorists to correct navigation errors.

The Science Of Placing Traffic Safety Cones

Depending on how you are utilizing traffic safety cones for traffic control, specific specifications are needed for them to reach their full potential. Here are some common scenarios where traffic cones can make a difference.

1. Increased Visibility For Pulled Over Vehicles

Sometimes tire or mechanical trouble forces drivers to pull over. Whether you drive a semi or a car, the shoulder is a dangerous place to be on the highway. It’s essential to have a fully stocked car safety kit for these situations. Sometimes flashing hazard lights aren’t enough to catch passing drivers’ attention. Including collapsible traffic cones in your car safety kit allows for quick and easy setup to alert other motorists that you are stranded. Set them up around your vehicle to make it more visible. You will want to place a safety cone between your car and the road, about 6 feet in front of your vehicle and two at least two car lengths at the rear of your vehicle. And remember, always face traffic when you pop up the cones and place them.

2. Control Movement In Crowded Areas

If you’ve attended a crowded event, such as a carnival or concert, you know that foot traffic can be even more frustrating than road traffic and put a damper on your good time. Cones can be used both indoors and outdoors to section off VIP areas or prevent overcrowding. Since cones are perceived as a symbol of authority, pedestrians tend to heed their placement. To make the approved pathways even more transparent, use plastic cone chains to create clear delineation to keep foot traffic flowing.

3. Guiding Event Traffic And Organizing Parking Lots

Both indoor and outdoor events require organized traffic flow and abundant parking to make it enjoyable for all participants. For events offering valet parking, traffic cones help motorists know where to pull in and which parking areas are for valet use only. Traffic cones can also be connected using cone bars to serve as a mini barricade for valet parking areas or to mark pedestrian walkways more clearly. Also, utilize additional safety products to keep your staff safe, like bright yellow or orange reflective safety vests. Parking cones also help identify which parking lots guests can use and how pedestrians can safely walk from their vehicle to the event. Traffic cones can be topped with custom signs to help identify the event and guide traffic to the correct location.

4. Identify And Block Off Children At Play Areas

Children love spending spring and summer jumping rope, riding bikes, or creating chalk art masterpieces on the warm driveway blacktop. Traffic cones come in especially helpful in school zones to alert pedestrians and drivers of crossings and other dangerous areas. But playing in an area that is usually reserved for vehicles is dangerous. Even roads with low speed limits can pose dangers to pedestrians. You might see traffic cones in residential areas with new stop signs to warn drivers of new traffic patters. Using reflective safety cones at the base of your driveway or between your children’s play area and the road makes them more visible to motorists and prevents tragedy from occurring. Add a children-at-play sign, and your message is clear. Because traffic cones are stackable, they are easily stored in any organized garage or basement. The pricing of safety cones is affordable for any family looking to increase the safety of their children’s play areas.  
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Author: Chris Giarratana

Chris Giarratana is a Digital Marketing Consultant in Orlando, FL. He develops marketing strategies for small businesses, researches emerging technologies, and enjoys studying transportation issues.

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