As the U.S. continues to see more drivers on the roads than ever before, state and local lawmakers are looking for ways to create safer streets to be enjoyed by all city residents. While many new and innovative safety measures are being implemented throughout urban environments, city planners can look to existing road redesigns for inspiration on how to make their city streets safer.
To ensure roadway safety, those who are in charge must look for ways on how to improve not only the driving experience of motorists but the overall safety of pedestrians as well. This is where traffic safety plays a crucial role, because roadway developers must consider the safety for all modes of transportation.
The Deadly Truth Of U.S. Traffic Accidents
In the US alone, traffic accidents kill more than 30,000 people every year. This staggering number is the result of casualties seen from passengers, drivers, cyclists, and even the innocent pedestrians involved in these gruesome events.
While casualty rates are not 100% for all involved in traffic accidents, those who manage to survive are left injured or severely disabled. While the U.S. is seeing a surge of drivers and distracted pedestrians contributing to this statistic, it shows that the U.S. has room to improve when it comes to designing safer city streets and highways systems.
What Makes Roads Safer?
Several elements affect the safety of driving on expressways, highways, freeways, streets, and roadways. Ranging from turn radius, speed limits, and visibility sight lines, it is the job of roadway engineers to design roads in a way to optimize for the safety of all travelers.
One way to design better roadways is to investigate traffic accidents to determine the main factors causing the incident. Roadway designers should look at elements like the amount of traffic, kind of travel, types of vehicles, and the state of the street surface.
Reviewing these and other factors help city planners to mitigate risks to drivers and pedestrians by altering roadways respectively. While investigating accidents is a reactive strategy, city planners can also use proactive strategies to improve roadway design throughout the U.S.
Reduce or prevent drunk driving.
Address sections with extremely dangerous roads with special traffic safety equipment, etc.
Enforce laws to prevent distracted driving.
Regional and state city planners can design roadways based on expected weather conditions in their areas.
Ensure drivers and pedestrians have adequate warning to a sudden change in traffic condition, especially during busy hours.
Creating Safer Roadways With Design In Mind
To improve the safety of traveling, the nation’s roadways are often redesigned and upgraded every year. For the past few years, the Federal Highway Administration has suggested helpful strategies for local, regional, and state government agencies regarding ways that would lessen roadway accidents and fatalities.
The problem is that these suggestions are a great guide for new roadways, but they offer a minimal impact on making existing roads safer. This is why city planners can look at some simple roadways solutions to make existing roadways safer
Installation of Rumble Strips
Rumble strips are a great way to keep drowsy or distracted drivers in their lanes and help avoid a crash. The most frequent placement of rumble strips is on the shoulder of roads, but rumble strips can also be installed in the center lines to alert drivers if they are encroaching in other lanes.
According to research, with the use of rumble strips, the number of collisions and sideswipe crashes have dramatically gone down by 14%. Aside from that, the installation of rumble strips has also lessened the occurrence of “run off the road accidents” by up to 38% on freeways and 18% in rural areas.
Improve Roads With Safety Edges
Safety edges are paving designs built with a 35-degree slope within the outer edge of the road. The use of this has reduced road accidents caused by wheels accidentally toppling over the side of the road, leading to loss of control.
With the help of these safety edges, the number of car accidents dramatically went down, and it is now being used on roadways and highways across the US.
Installation of Median Barriers
Often seen in construction sites and highways, median barriers are used to divide opposing traffic. The most common type of median used on highways is called the Jersey Barrier, but many city planners are using the water-filled barrier alternative to ensure the safety of all drivers and pedestrians in a variety of situations.
The primary types of median used are the cable barriers, concrete barriers, and beam guardrails. Each type of median barrier has their own benefits and the Federal Highway Administration recommends using specific medians depending on the unique situation.
Installation of Roundabouts
While roundabouts are most frequently seen in European cities, this design has been shown to reduce injury crashes by 75% compared to stop sign or signal-controlled intersections. Even though roundabouts are not the ideal solution in all situations, they have been shown to be effective for several reasons, including:
Low travel speeds: Roundabouts force drivers to slow down. This means that drivers and pedestrians have more time to react to situations on the road.
No stop lights: Many drivers try to beat traffic lights, and this causes them to speed up when they see yellow lights. The increased speeds can cause traffic accidents and harm pedestrians.
One-way travel: All drivers entering a roundabound do so in a one-way fashion. This means that a driver only has to look one way (to their left-side when entering, and to their right-side if go through). This minimizes the chances of overlooking or misinterpreting traffic patterns leading up to the intersection of traditional intersections.
Better Turning Lanes
One of the leading causes of traffic accidents is when intersections build up with heavy traffic. Even in local city roads, cars turning left through an intersection can build up a long line of cars behind them. As a countermeasure for these negative impacts, many city planners are creating designs for road diets– a holistic approach to make roads safer by improving throughput.
This is why city planners can reposition central turning lanes to alleviate the pressure of stop-and-go traffic often caused in locations around turning cars. Based on research, a well-designed lane installed at a stop-controlled intersection has kept the roadway safe for up to 55%.
Timing Traffic Signals Set Properly
The number of accidents caused by red light keeps on increasing every year, and this usually occurs within intersections. However, with the use of a traffic control equipment to lengthen the duration of the yellow light, it’s possible to reduce minimize traffic accidents.
With advanced traffic management technology, city planners are also able to adjust the timing and behavior of traffic lights in a specific location based on traffic patterns. This means that using real-time data traffic managers can optimize traffic lights while also reducing the chances of traffic accidents.
Installation of Refuge Crosswalks
Pedestrian-related accidents can be reduced by installing pedestrian refuge areas away from the sidewalk with escalated medians. These crosswalks often feature a bright sign alerting drivers of pedestrians in the crosswalk, and a “safety zone” at the midway point for pedestrians to stand if traffic patterns prevent them from completing their street crossing.
This location increases visibility and has been shown to reduce exposure to oncoming traffic and is recommended by the Federal Highway Administration and them even advice roadway engineers to install at least 4 feet wide medians that are ideal for areas where there are a lot of pedestrians and cyclists. Even better, city planners can install crosswalk sign barricades to ensure drivers know pedestrians might be in the immediate area.
Improving Existing Roadways For Safety
Even as more cars drive on public roadways, city planners are using the above roadway improvement tips to ensure the safety of pedestrians and drivers alike. While these tips can’t completely eliminate all traffic accidents, they have been shown to reduce the leading risks that can lead to traffic accidents.