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I'm referring to people in bright orange or green vests who direct automobiles. I thought of road workers, but it's not specifically around road work. Is there a word for "traffic-directors"?

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One major distinction is based on whether they are police or construction workers. Your picture looks like a traffic cop in the U.S. –  Peter Rowell Dec 31 '11 at 1:58
    
And in the US a "road worker" may be using a pick or a jackhammer, or may be picking up litter, or something. Not directing traffic. –  GEdgar Dec 31 '11 at 2:08
    
In Australia at least when a police officer is doing this, the task is termed point duty. But I'm not sure what the person doing it would be called. –  hippietrail Dec 3 '13 at 17:18

6 Answers 6

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Such a person may be called a traffic director, traffic controller or traffic conductor.

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I don't understand the upvotes. Not one of these terms is commonly (or uncommonly) used to describe the person in the OP's photograph. (Plus, traffic director is not another word for traffic-directors.) –  Gnawme Dec 31 '11 at 19:20
    
@gnawme Yes. These might be good descriptive terms, but they are not in common use, and while someone might guess what you mean if they heard them, then again they might not. If someone asked, "What is the term for a person who performs medical operations?", the right answer is "surgeon", not "medical operator", no matter how descriptive you might think the latter term is. –  Jay Mar 17 at 13:22

They're called traffic cops in the US. (Or, more formally, traffic police.)

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Take care. "Cop" is very informal. If you don't intend to be informal, say "traffic policeman" –  slim Dec 31 '11 at 5:16
    
@slim The word cop is certainly in the vernacular here in the US. (Only AHED flags it as informal.) In writing, I would use traffic officer or traffic police or the like if the context required it. Then again, that's not what the OP was asking. –  Gnawme Dec 31 '11 at 6:43

It looks like the (US) industry term is flagger, that is, if it's not specifically a traffic cop.

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I would say a flagger would have a flag to stop or slow traffic while something else happens on the road. He does not direct traffic in general. –  GEdgar Dec 31 '11 at 18:38

If they're police officers, than as Gnawme says the common term is "traffic cop".

Construction workers who are working on a road or something near a road so that they are interfering with traffic will normally have one of their members direct traffic. This person used to be called a "flagman". In these politically-correct days, he or she is now called a "flagger". (While I don't have statistics on this, from my anecdotal observation, these days if the construction crew is more than 2 or 3 people the flagger is almost always a woman.)

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In the UK such people who are not police are called traffic marshals, or, when directing traffic (say, fork-lifts or lorries being unloaded) within a yard, banksmen.

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If the person directing traffic is a policeman (or woman) then traffic cop is perfectly acceptable. Traffic wardens are non-police ("civil staff") members of police forces with special responsibility for managing traffic, including parking.

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In Canada, depending on the sex, it is traffic police(wo)man, or as someone rightly pointed out, 'cop', but that is very informal.

I have seen in construction literature (I have done a bit of everything, haha) that they still call the road workers "flag men" despite there being more women in the business now. When I was corrected verbally, I was told "flag person".

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In the U.S. you routinely see signs that say "Flagger Ahead", so I think "flagger" is the accepted (politically-correct) U.S. term. I wouldn't be surprised if the average construction worker still calls them "flag men", just like Americans routinely call the service people on airplanes "stewardesses" even though the politically correct term for a couple of decades now has been "flight attendants". –  Jay Mar 17 at 13:26

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