Can you do that?The United States plans to reduce accidents through smarter road design

2022-06-02 0 By

How can this be?Us aims to reduce accidents through Smarter Road design [Autocar News] Statistics show that 94 percent of traffic accidents in the US are caused by human error.That number feels right.It also caters to a very American idea: that individuals are in control of their own destinies.It does not place the burden of road safety on the system — the way roads are built, the way cars are designed, the way streets are managed — but on the driver, walker or cyclist.The statistics are based on a misunderstanding of a 2015 report by the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is responsible for road safety in the US, foreign media reported.The report looked at crashes between 2005 and 2007 and determined that drivers were the “key cause” behind the vast majority of crashes.But the driver’s actions are usually the last in a long line of events.In other words, the driver’s subtle movement of the wheels is the thing that ends up going wrong — a process that could start with the measurement of highways, or the road designs on engineers’ desks, or policies crafted decades ago by lobbyists that made it impossible for anyone to get across town without a car.Earlier this month, at the behest of researchers, advocates and another Biden administration official, the TRANSPORTATION Department removed 94 percent of its statistics from its website.On Thursday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg began telling a very different story about road deaths in the United States.”Human mistakes should not kill human beings,” he said at a news conference in Washington, D.C.He says his goal is zero road deaths.Buttigieg was there to present what DOT calls its “National Road Safety Strategy.”It is a series of actions and recommendations that could affect everything from speed limits to street design to the technology needed for cars.If all goes according to plan (and that’s a big “if”), the strategy could overturn assumptions in the country’s approach to traffic safety — and reduce the number of deaths on U.S. roads.”It’s a huge paradigm shift to recognize that people make mistakes, and we’re not going to condemn and enforce our ways to improve behavior,” said Ken McLeod, policy director of advocacy group The League of American Bicyclists.The number of deaths on U.S. roads has been declining since the 1970s, thanks to advances in vehicle technology and road design.But during the pandemic, that trend has reversed.Americans drove fewer miles in 2020, but the number of deaths per mile traveled rose 23 percent, to 38,680 overall, the most since 2007.In the first half of 2021, DOT estimates the number of deaths rose again, from 17,020 in the first year to 20,160.Death rates were disproportionately high among blacks, American Indians, and rural Americans.So do pedestrians and cyclists.Compared with the rest of the world, the picture looks even worse: There are more deaths on American roads than in any comparable high-income country, given the size of its population.Now America’s Department of Transportation proposes to eliminate such exceptionalism by adopting a “safety system” approach to roads: the principle, born in Sweden, that roads should be designed and managed to allow people to make mistakes without killing or disabling anyone.”We’re catching up with the rest of the world,” said David Hakey, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and a traffic safety researcher.The strategy proposes spending billions of dollars from the recently passed infrastructure bill on road safety programs, including programs aimed at reducing bicycling and pedestrian deaths, as well as studies on how to make trucks safer.It recommended that NHTSA require automakers to add systems to all their vehicles to automatically brake before a collision with a pedestrian.These systems are already in some cars and may require automakers to add more cameras, radar systems or other sensors to their vehicles.The strategy also considers requiring automakers to add technology to prevent people from drinking and driving.Almost a third of accidents involve people who are drunk.The strategy also proposes a new approach to speeding.In 2020, speeding killed nearly 10,500 Americans.It proposes changing the Department of Transport’s guidance on setting speed limits – which is technically left to the states.The unit will help local engineers think about road design, layout and people other than drivers, rather than setting speed limits based on the way drivers move “naturally” on open roads.In practice, it may lead some local officials to lower speed limits on certain roads to make them safer.In practice, however, such a strategy would take years to implement and could be derailed by politics.Its effectiveness “depends very much on implementation,” Hakey said.”It just takes a long time.”