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Construction barrels (officially known as "drums" in the United States) are traffic control devices used to channel motor vehicle traffic through construction sites or to warn motorists of construction activity near the roadway. They are used primarily in the United States, but are occasionally used in Canada and Mexico. They are an alternative to traffic cones which are smaller and easily hit by vehicles. Drums tend to command more respect from drivers than cones as they are larger, more visible, and give the appearance of being formidable obstacles.
Until the late 1980s, construction crews typically used 55-gallon steel drums to guide traffic through construction areas. They were painted orange and white and filled with sand or water to keep them in place. Because the drums were steel and weighed down with sand or water, extensive damage would occur to vehicles striking them.
Plastic barrels that are commonly seen on American roadways today began emerging in the late 1970s and 1980s; steel 55-gallon drums were largely phased out by the 1990s and may no longer be used as traffic control devices in the US. Construction barrels are typically bright orange and have four alternating white and orange reflective bands. Most have a rubber base that prevents the barrel from tipping over during high winds or when struck by a vehicle. Construction barrels have a handle at the top so they can be easily picked up and carried. The handle also allows crews to install barricade lights to increase visibility.