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How To Build Roads To Control How Fast You Drive

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the how-about-ramps dept.

Transportation 801

An anonymous reader writes "They're the holy grail of transportation engineering: streets and highways specifically designed to encourage automobilists to drive less quickly, reducing the rates of passenger fatalities and generally encouraging a safer urban environment. And now new research shows that, if built right, they just might work. A new study out of the University of Connecticut suggests that minor reductions in vehicle speed are possible through changes in the street environment. Through the use of roadside parking, tighter building setbacks, and more commercial land uses, road designers can make drivers subconsciously drive more slowly." All of that is gonna work a lot better than my strategy of placing car-sized holes covered with twigs and branches randomly every half mile or so down the interstates.

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From the No Duh Dept. (5, Insightful)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671322)

Good grief. From TFA:

The surveys demonstrated that land use type, roadway type, and building setbacks all played significant roles in determining vehicle speeds. Most importantly, though, having cars parked along the side of streets accounted by itself for a reduction in travel speeds ...

And:

So the conclusion is this: People can be induced to reduce their driving speeds when cars are parked along the roadways, when buildings are close to the street, and when those buildings include commercial rather than residential activity.

Who would have thought that by reducing a driver's visibility, the driver would go slower to give themselves time to react to surprises? You? You in the back? Are you some kind of smartass? The Connecticut Department of Transportation studied this for four years [trb.org] . There's no way you could have arrived at the same conclusion so quickly!

This study was useful in determining how much people slowed down -- quantifying it at about 10% -- but sweeping on to claims like, "reducing the rates of passenger fatalities and generally encouraging a safer urban environment" is silly. Streets packed with parked cars, pedestrians, nearby buildings, et. al. are generally more dangerous precisely because clear lines-of-sight are cut off. Sane drivers know this, reduce their speed, and then -- making wild hand-waving guesses, here -- wind up with about the same overall level of "dangerousness" as when driving on uncluttered roadways.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671394)

Who would have thought that by reducing a driver's visibility, the driver would go slower to give themselves time to react to surprises?

I was always taught to drive so that I can stop within the distance I can see ... but to be honest I thought I was alone.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (5, Interesting)

somersault (912633) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671552)

I was taught the same.

But also going on a skid training course made me realise how much of a difference there is when emergency braking from 30 and emergency breaking for 20, it's quite dramatic when you actually try it (though no doubt when we were doing that they had the weight on the tires reduced using the rig attached to the car so that it took way longer to stop than a modern car). Putting pedestrians closer to and making them less visible to drivers does not make things safer. Just because a car is going slower does not automatically mean it is "safer". Sure it means it will cause less damage if it hits something, but if the car is more likely to actually hit something because of an inattentive driver or insane road designs, then how the hell is that "safer"?

PS the lanes, walkways and roads here in the UK are generally thinner and more lined with cars than those in the US.. I don't know the different accident rates but it would be interesting to compare them. I suspect there would be more here.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (5, Informative)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672032)

http://www.car-accidents.com/pages/stats.html [car-accidents.com]

There were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the United States in 2005. The financial cost of these crashes is more than 230 Billion dollars. 2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States -- one death every 13 minutes.

http://www.theclaimsconnection.co.uk/road-accident-claims1.html [theclaimsc...tion.co.uk]

The number of people killed in road accidents was down from 2,946 in 2007 to 2,538. In accidents reported to the police the number of people either killed or seriously injured stood at 28,572, a fall of 7%.

So roughly 42,000 deaths versus 2,500 deaths. 307m people in the US version 61m in the UK. Therefore the death rate per 1m people is 137 in the US versus 41 in the UK.

So, no, there aren't more here (where I assume you mean the UK).

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

donaggie03 (769758) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671622)

Who would have thought that by reducing a driver's visibility, the driver would go slower to give themselves time to react to surprises?

I was always taught to drive so that I can stop within the distance I can see ... .

And if you were driving in the environment described in the article, you'd be responsible for killing the brat that ran out in front of you from between any of the many parallel parked cars on the side of the road. This crap experiment might make people drive slower, but it makes the overall conditions much more unsafe.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

hattig (47930) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672096)

How can you be responsible for killing someone that ran out in front of you when you were driving safely within the speed limit and taking necessary precautions when driving? Exactly, you're not responsible.

The brat should have learned their green cross code, or they should have crossed at a pedestrian crossing.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672198)

How can you be responsible for killing someone that ran out in front of you when you were driving safely within the speed limit and taking necessary precautions when driving? Exactly, you're not responsible.

I don't know what legal jurisdiction you live in but anywhere I've ever driven in the US the driver is always responsible for hitting a pedestrian.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672226)

Motorcycle safety courses tend to tell you that it is wise to ride such that you can stop within the distance you can see as well, though this vastly simplifies a rather complex subject. You're definitely not alone, making a bit of a generalization here, most drivers are stupid, they are also terribly bad at driving :-) They zone out and think this task is so easy that it's possible to talk the cell phone, suck down starbucks, catch up on personal grooming, and read the newspaper all at the same time. I never really appreciated just how careless a driver I was myself until I started doing it on two wheels.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671422)

Living in Seattle, I can tell you that reduced visibility and every intersection being potentially uncontrolled does not keep people from doing ~50 in 25 / 30 zones. MORE visibility, pedestrian over / underpasses, and simply banning cars from certain pedestrian heavy streets would probably do a helluva lot more good. People drive fast because they're impatient and getting to the grocery store between episodes of Lost is SeriousBusiness (tm), not because the road conditions are conducive to it.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1, Interesting)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671512)

Drivers slow down in built-up areas? I guess some do, but there's always lots who don't.

We'd probably do a better job in reducing "dangerousness" by making the penalty for repeated speeding and reckless driving something more serious than it is. Maybe death?

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (2, Interesting)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671596)

only a few people need to go at a sane speed and it forces those behind them to slow down too.
(of course then they try to overtake in stupid situations but until we get them fitted with shock collars idiots will always do idiotic things.)

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671808)

Everybody believes somebody else is the one who needs to go at a 'sane' speed, much like everybody believes their IQ is over 100.

Fact: people are *lousy* at estimating their own abilities.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672152)

Look up "unskilled and unaware". It's an APA study that basically says that when you judge your own skills, you use your own skills as a benchmark, thus inflating your perception of what you are capable of. In other words, you don't know what you don't know.

In an interesting twist, extremely skilled persons under-rate their abilities.

Ah, here we are:
http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf [apa.org]

found via:
http://www.damninteresting.com/unskilled-and-unaware-of-it [damninteresting.com]

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

RadioElectric (1060098) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672204)

Wow, epic reading comprehension fail.

The grandparent was actually saying that drivers cannot speed if the car in front of them isn't. This is true when there's enough traffic for you to be able to see the car in front, but the worst cases of speeding I see are on otherwise empty roads. There is a serious problem here in Birmingham with "boy racers" driving around the city centre at double the speed limit, I'd like to see non-signposted speed cameras to catch them.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (2, Insightful)

himurabattousai (985656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671782)

...making the penalty for repeated speeding and reckless driving something more serious than it is.

This would require properly set speed limits and reasonable enforcement, say 10% or 5 MPH (whichever is greater) either direction. Inclement weather and rush hour aside, the speed limit is the expected rate of travel. Driving far too slow for conditions is just as dangerous as too fast.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (4, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671888)

We'd probably do a better job in reducing "dangerousness" by making the penalty for repeated speeding and reckless driving something more serious than it is. Maybe death

Doesn't work.

The penalty for driving drunk is often death and some people don't seem to mind much.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31672142)

The penalty for driving drunk is often death and some people don't seem to mind much.

I want to preface this by saying that I am not trying to be a troll. It often seems that the person hit by the drunk driver is the one that dies and not the drunk driver. Seems like the penalty isn't really death.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672222)

Penalty != Consequence

Consider that many people think they are a 'safe' drunk driver, so they do it anyway. One guy I know said he practiced the 'thumb' method: holding up his thumbs while holding the wheel and keeping them inside the white lines. Also keep in mind that the dead are frequently not the drunk driver, who has crumple zones, a seatbelt, and airbags to protect themself. Harsher criminal penalties sidestep this issue: the determining factor is now no longer just hitting someone.

Not that a punative measure would prevent all drunk driving, but it would be a stronger disincentive for those who are 'still alright to drive'.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671570)

There is a road where I live that implemented curves to prevent 'road races' and fast driving. Most people DO slow down, me too...as it is more dangerous to take these curves at high speeds.

But...there is a bunch of motorbikers that do race along this road. As such, there are more motorbike deaths on this one patch of 600m than in the entire rest of the city. During the winter the road is a parking lot because of accidents as well.

It is now the deadliest street in the city, BUT, the average speed is a lot lower than anywhere else. I rarely see people go above 40km/hr on this road, but when they do, everyone dies.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (2, Funny)

pete_norm (150498) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672078)

As such, there are more motorbike deaths on this one patch of 600m than in the entire rest of the city.

Natural selection? They should put curves like that in more places.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (2, Interesting)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671652)

Right, these things may make most cars slow down but are they any safer at the slower speeds they are now going rather than the faster speeds on the roads that can support those speeds?

What idiots (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671668)

So the conclusion is this: People can be induced to reduce their driving speeds when cars are parked along the roadways, when buildings are close to the street, and when those buildings include commercial rather than residential activity.

Wow. These people are idiots. Their plan is to make the roads less safe, so that it forces to make people drive slower, because driving slower makes the roads safer???

Re:What idiots (2, Funny)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671946)

So the conclusion is this: People can be induced to reduce their driving speeds when cars are parked along the roadways, when buildings are close to the street, and when those buildings include commercial rather than residential activity.

Wow. These people are idiots. Their plan is to make the roads less safe, so that it forces to make people drive slower, because driving slower makes the roads safer???

Not only that, but they are designing roads that in a few years* will be driven by self driving automobiles. These cars will always drive the optimal speed and so they are just slowing down the cars of the future.

*Perpetually ten.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671690)

Right, but at least the passengers are safe.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (5, Interesting)

SIR_Taco (467460) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671744)

True, but passenger fatalities will be reduced.... they said nothing about pedestrian fatalities.

As much as their conclusion makes sense for their premise.... they're not looking at the entire picture.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31672004)

And I thought the US was a terrible place to be a pedestrian before.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672210)

"Watch out for that pedestrian!"
        -Aziraphale
"It's on the street, it knows the risks it's taking!"
        -Crowley

Risk balancing (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671832)

Sane drivers know this, reduce their speed, and then -- making wild hand-waving guesses, here -- wind up with about the same overall level of "dangerousness" as when driving on uncluttered roadways.

I remember reading about a study done for motorcyclists, they were observed riding both with and without a helmet. Those that normally didn't wear a helmet were asked to wear one, and in response to the 'added safety' increased their speed to compensate.

People take a set amount of perceived risk, what they need to do is find ways to make a situation seem more dangerous than it is, as people would overcompensate and thus safer.

Looking at this from an evolutionary POV, it makes sense that a population would evolve to have a certain amount of risk-taking on the part of its individuals. Often when a risk is taken, and the result is poor, the individual takes the punishment (often death), but when the result is positive the population benefits, thus populations with a certain amount of riskiness flourish (enough to advance, not enough to be wiped out). Consider the new food problem, most populations have a set of known good food, known bad food and unknown food; they eat the good food and mostly avoid the bad and unknown foods. Some individuals will eat the unknown foods, if it is bad they die, and the population is largely unaffected, if it is good, the new food is then eaten by the population and everyone benefits.

Not the DUH! - This is important (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671940)

Actually -the study was originally done by European regulators, who found that as drivers were isolated from external stimuli, they drove faster. So for example a town with no traffic lights had a lot lower average speed for cars - than in towns with traffic lights, stop signs etc. When the signs are taken out, the responsibility directly shifts to the driver, and while it is a bit more tiring, the results are fascinating.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,448747,00.html

Read it.

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671956)

Streets packed with parked cars, pedestrians, nearby buildings, et. al. are generally more dangerous precisely because clear lines-of-sight are cut off.

So those streets are more dangerous.

Sane drivers know this, reduce their speed, and then -- making wild hand-waving guesses, here -- wind up with about the same overall level of "dangerousness" as when driving on uncluttered roadways.

So those streets are not more dangerous.

Which is it?

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (5, Informative)

inigopete (780297) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671998)

The Germans and Dutch have been removing road signs and lights from roads for a few years now in experiments based on the theory that making roads more "dangerous" forces drivers to be more careful.

e.g. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.12/traffic.html [wired.com]

From http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,2143663,00.html [dw-world.de] , "When you don't exactly know who has right of way, you tend to seek eye contact with other road users,'' he said. ''You automatically reduce your speed, you have contact with other people and you take greater care."

Re:From the No Duh Dept. (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672182)

The other horrible thing here is that they are basically saying "if you make places look intimidating, people will be intimidated and drive slower"... I don't want my entire city to look intimidating, just on the grounds that it might make driving marginally safer... possibly.

Until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671348)

people overcome the psychological trickery, then it becomes MORE dangerous!

I Have An Idea (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671376)

Toll booths. Yes, tool booths will slow down traffic. Or speed bumps, but they aren't as irritating as the toll booths.

Re:I Have An Idea (1)

bugi (8479) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671492)

Speak for yourself. Around here we have almost no tollbooths and have instead evolved speed bumps into speed mountains and the courts have clarified that damage to vehicles with low (meaning normal) clearances are not cause for action. Who wants to tell me this is not a conspiracy for the benefit of makers of SUVs?

Re:I Have An Idea (1)

Chees0rz (1194661) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671894)

No kidding. I drive a Honda Fit, totally unaltered, and I scrape bottom around 5mph at my friend's apartment complex. He's a little heavier set, so I practically have to come to a stand still if he's in the car.

I was considering moving into the complex, and made it very clear to the owners that it wasn't happening simply because of the speed walls.

pain bumps... (5, Insightful)

butterflysrage (1066514) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671670)

speed bumps also greatly slow down emergency vehicles. If you have ever been in an ambulance going over speed bumps you will curse the name of whoever came up with such a painful idea

Thanks for the great ideas! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671716)

There's the solution! Instead of changing all our roadways to have less visibility to people drive 10% slower, how about we have the fed/state governments sell off all their roadways to private owners. We now have a toll booth on every road and people are driving 100% slower! TADA!

Re:Thanks for the great ideas! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31672074)

Rather than looking to reduce visibility, why not work to improve mass transit so there will be less traffic and less road related deaths instead?

how about we have the fed/state governments sell off all their roadways to private owners

I'd like to pass on that option. Having open roads & public mass transit are preferred.

Mij

I have a better idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671850)

Places all girls colleges close to the road. Make sure the athletic fields are visible from the road and the school uniforms are low cut and the school's policy is NOT BRAS or underpants.

There may be some unintended consequence of traffic jams though.

Re:I have a better idea... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672064)

Places all girls colleges close to the road. Make sure the athletic fields are visible from the road and the school uniforms are low cut and the school's policy is NOT BRAS or underpants.

That reminds me of a claim that I had to process when I worked in the insurance business. We had an insured come to report rear-ending someone. I asked him how it happened, his answer went something like: "Well, you see, there was this REALLY hot chick with BIG FUCKING TITS. And I was watching her walk down the road and BOOM. I hit the car in front of me."

At least he was honest about it ;)

Lots of turns and bumpy. (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671400)

Done. In fact many roads are already like this!

Of course doing so, MAY slow down drivers, but doesn't necessarily make it any safer. Probably the opposite of that.

Re:Lots of turns and bumpy. (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671532)

I would say encouraging roadside parking is indeed the opposite of safer conditions especially given that on my roads at least there are maybe 4 accidents a day during rush hour. During that time 10s of thousands even 100s of thousands of cars have driven on it. At some point you have to accept that there is a certain amount of risk you take when you drive.

We all hate getting slowed up by an accident during rush hour but reducing our speed extending the length of time on the road and increasing congestion in areas already congested I don't don't see as a net benefit. I see it like guns, you will never make a setup that is functional and idiot proof so you accept that there is a certain amount of risk involved and do your best to both educate and be educated because you lose more than you win if you go without. Naturally those unwilling to take the risk have alternatives too.

This is why they install roundabouts (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671418)

Here in Minnesota they like to add roundabouts everywhere to force you to slow down. What the traffic engineers did not seem to anticipate is that people do not know how to use them and routinely stop traffic into the circle (instead of yielding) or don't signal in and out of them so people have no idea what traffic is doing.

Now, this just adds to the whole slow down of traffic idea they were trying to get at but it causes many other issues including accidents (even though they claim they're reduced), higher short-term costs (they claim that over 25 to 30 years it's less expensive than a four-way), and poor design (including one-way streets into one side of the roundabouts causing exiting confusion).

Ugh.

Re:This is why they install roundabouts (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671556)

Are those real roundabouts, or the crappy "mini-roundabouts" that we get in the UK? I indicate on both (cycling or driving) and I know it can be difficult to time it on mini-roundabouts, but some people can't even cope with indicating and large roundabouts or indicating and turning left (the first turning on a roundabout in the UK - the one where they don't have to indicate on and indicate off again).

Re:This is why they install roundabouts (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671594)

These are nothing like what I think of when I think "roundabout" so I'm guessing they fit your definition of "mini".

Re:This is why they install roundabouts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671914)

Here in Minnesota they like to add roundabouts ,... don't signal in and out of them so people have no idea what traffic is doing.

Why would you signal going into a roundabout? You have no choice about where you're going.

Re:This is why they install roundabouts (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672114)

Anyone who can't figure out how to use a roundabout properly is probably too stupid to be allowed to drive (not that being too stupid to be allowed to drive seemed to ever stopped anyone from doing so).

The real world government solution: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671452)

Encourage fast driving, and set up speed cams everywhere. Rake in the dough. Profit! (Oh, worried about driver safety? The govt isn't)

How about making it safer for higher speeds? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671466)

That way people are on the road for less time.

Re:How about making it safer for higher speeds? (3, Insightful)

dasunt (249686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671900)

That way people are on the road for less time.

But outside of interstates and restricted-access roadways, roads are used by more than just automobile drivers.

Buses are stopping and going, pedestrians are walking to work or going shopping, people are parking, deliveries are being made, and cyclists and motorcyclists are going about their daily business.

There is a benefit for making streets usable for everyone -- it increases the livability of a community, reduces urban sprawl (and the associated financial and environmental costs), and allows the elderly and disable to live more independent lives.

Now before someone starts ranting about how they pay tax on gas and thus roads should only be for cars, the gax tax does not come anywhere close to funding roads in the US -- a large portion of the money needed to maintain and build roadways comes from property taxes and the general fund.

Test Your Hypothesis! (2, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671494)

All of that is gonna work a lot better than my strategy of placing car sized holes covered with twigs and branches randomly every half mile or so down the interstates.

Nonsense, be a little bit more persistent. Apply for a government grant. Work out a deal with the overpopulated prison system to allow test inmates good behavior parole if they survive the course. Conduct a double blind study to see which method drivers prefer.

Don't underestimate your ideas, you may have something here. I think with a few minor modifications (like filling the pits with black mambas or loaded claymores) we could gently urge drivers through natural human fears to drive slower. I'm already afraid of getting a ticket when I speed, why not step it up a notch or two?

Conduct your experiments ... in the name of science! I mean, the dystopian Mad Max future isn't going to herald itself!

Highways (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671546)

Isn't the Holy grail of highways, a highway that encourages people to drive as fast as possible and lets them do so safely? The purpose of a highway is to move people from A to B, safely and preferably as quickly as possible.

Ahh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671562)

The author was obviously never 17.

Auto . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671572)

. . . mobilists? Really?

Re:Auto . . . (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671750)

Auto...mobilists? Really?

I'm sure the manual will indicate which lever is the velocitator and which is the deceleratrix.

How To Build Roads To Control How Fast You Drive? (1)

zummit (448138) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671580)

How To Build Roads To Control How Fast You Drive?

Simple ... speed bumps! [Speed dips also acceptable.]

Two basic ways to do it (5, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671604)

1) You can make the road look more dangerous, e.g. with optical illusions to make it look narrower

2) You can make the road actually and obviously more dangerous, e.g. reducing sight lines and adding on-street parking

Number 2 works, but it doesn't increase safety. Number 1 works... for a while. My concern with #1 is that drivers will realize they are being fooled, and start speeding up again. That's OK, except they may then interpret the real situation that the illusion was imitating as an illusion, and fail to take it into account, resulting in a net decrease in safety.

Pit traps (4, Funny)

stevied (169) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671620)

All of that is gonna work a lot better than my strategy of placing car sized holes covered with twigs and branches randomly every half mile or so down the interstates. Sadly, your strategy seems to have been widely adopted across the UK recently. I preferred the speed cameras - at least they didn't destroy your suspension ..

Slower (1)

digitaldrunkenmonk (1778496) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671630)

While this may cause cautious drivers to drive slower, it doesn't entirely inhibit reckless drivers from behaving dangerously. Granted, though, that reducing vehicle fatalities is an admirable goal, I dislike this method. Causing my line of sight to be cut off will piss me off, all the more so when I get stuck behind a driver than drives too slowly for the conditions, which is frustrating enough without cars that a pedestrian may walk out from unexpectedly. Any town with a tunnel will notice, though, that drivers instinctively slow down when entering a constricted space, to my chagrin. If you can drive at 75 + on the bridge, why can't you with a roof over your head? The walls aren't any closer to the road, and the speed limit hasn't changed.

Speed-trap income based towns will not like this (1)

sohmc (595388) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671636)

There is a stretch of road in Maryland where the dashes that separate the lanes are longer than they are anywhere else. The speed limit is the same. It may not seem important but I believe they did this on purpose because I've gotten many tickets in that area.

I think subconsciously, we see the lines as going slower. So naturally we speed up. I've never gone out there and measured the lines. But I have gotten used to where the police officer sits to catch speeders.

Small border towns will not like these "improvements" because much of their budget is based on the revenue that speeders bring. Most limits are not about safety.

this FP for GnAA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671640)

our abil$ity to

Wow (4, Informative)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671654)

Studies show that drivers adjust to the speed at which they feel safe, regardless of posted speed. So the only way to make them go slower is to make the road inherently *less* safe.

Also, similar studies show that driving about 5-10 mph faster than posted is actually about the safest speed you can go.
http://www.motorists.org/speedlimits/ [motorists.org]

There's also the argument that restricting the ability to drive quickly kills, as you slow emergency response vehicles as well. http://www.bromleytransport.org.uk/Ambulance_delays.htm [bromleytransport.org.uk]

All in all, one of the dumbest proposals I've ever heard. It seems that one of the easiest mistakes to make as an organization is to try to optimize for one contributing factor (speed) while ignoring the point of restricting that factor in the first place (reducing accidents).

all of your observations (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671954)

do not negate the existence of the assholes barreling by at 90 mph

that's the whole point

Re:all of your observations (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672122)

That's what punishment really is for. It doesn't make sense to make the road less safe for everyone, merely to slow down the few people going well over speed limits. For those, you can fine, suspend their license, or even jail.

Re:Wow (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672072)

NO, you can make them more annoying to drive at higher speeds.

Cut groove in the road. The slow you want someone to go, the closer the groove are.

Also, a Police car driving the speed limit tends to keep people at the desired speed.

So maybe a grid layout isn't such a good idea (5, Funny)

dingen (958134) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671656)

Most roads are already quite curvy in Europe and I'm pretty sure new roads are constructed in the same manner to encourage lower driving speeds. Straight lines make people want to speed, lots of turns and twists make people want to break, so maybe making all your roads as straight as possible and thus creating grid-like layouts isn't such a good idea after all.

A side effect of less straight roads could also be a decline in traffic jams, because curved lines are longer than straight ones and thus can hold more cars.

Re:So maybe a grid layout isn't such a good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671966)

As it is, highways are already engineered to not be straight lines to reduce the highway hypnosis effect. It is very rare for newer highways to have a stretch of road longer than a mile that is straight and not over hills.

Also, lengthening the distance between two points won't reduce the volume of traffic, which gets compressed easily to cause traffic jams from driver behaviour.

Re:So maybe a grid layout isn't such a good idea (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672106)

Most roads are already quite curvy in Europe and I'm pretty sure new roads are constructed in the same manner to encourage lower driving speeds.

Hey, it's the curvy roads that encourage "inspired driving"! Straights are only good for "steering lock" racing, which isn't much fun.

Re:So maybe a grid layout isn't such a good idea (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672216)

Except that you spend more time on the road because there is more road to travel and you are going slower.

Build roads that make it more difficult to drive? (0, Redundant)

m6ack (922653) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671660)

So, now they suggest that we build roads intentionally that will make us waste more time on the road, reduce visibility and cause more accidents? That is total brain damage!

Other strategies... (5, Interesting)

petaflop (682818) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671710)

In the UK we have lots of 'speed warning' signs. When you approach them, if you are exceeding the speed limit, they light up and tell you (and anyone behind you) how fast you are going. And that's all. No penalties. They seem to make a significant difference in residuntial areas. I think they are often paid for by the local community rather than the state.

In Portugal I saw a cute system - if you pass a sensor driving faster than the speed limit, then a traffic signal 200yards/metres down the road turns red for 10 seconds, making you (and again anyone behind you) stop.

The psychology behind these systems is interesting - both rely on shaming you in front of other drivers. The Portugese system goes further and makes other drivers angry with you for speeding.

Re:Other strategies... (4, Insightful)

SoTerrified (660807) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672168)

The Portugese system goes further and makes other drivers angry with you for speeding.

I think the Portuguese system is the future. Note that it shames you in front of other drivers, but that it also slows you as a penalty for speeding. People will naturally adopt the behavior that gets them where they are going fastest. If you make 'speeding' the slower option, people will just naturally drive safer.

Re:Other strategies... (1)

Happy Nuclear Death (911893) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672176)

Sure, but I have a hard time seeing how the Portuguese system enhances revenue to the State^H^H^H^H^H^H^H improves safety.

It doesn't work. (5, Insightful)

SoTerrified (660807) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671730)

As a former employee of an international road transportation company, we studied the exact same thing.

Interesting fact. When someone is driving in a place they don't know, they drive slower. You can duplicate the effect by making changes to a known environment, like this study does by adding cars to the roadside. Second interesting fact? Once the changes become 'known', speeds return to what they were previously. I notice this part is somehow absent in the claims that "the lower speeds make things safer."

If I was from the University of Connecticut, I'd be embarrassed to be releasing this study.

Drive slower ... (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671756)

and thereby use more gas.

Is that also a good idea?

Re:Drive slower ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31672130)

Slower also means less air resistance, thus the car will usually burn less gas. Within sensible limits, of course: a car that's idling has an mpg of zero.

Autocross (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671762)

It's designed for me to not be able to peak over 60mph.

I shouldn't be able to physically push over 40mph in the corners.

Most people will be too scared to go faster than 25, if they even go that fast.

Yet, the little MX-5 Miata hits those curves at 75, no problem, on the R030A's with the steering and throttle control just right...

This is really going to work.

"REDUCE SPEED" (1)

mi (197448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671798)

Am I the only one annoyed and offended by the flashing "reduce speed" signs, which implore me to slow down without knowing my current speed? Would they stop blinking if I stopped completely?

It is like that mother asking her husband: "Go check, what the kids are doing, and tell them to stop."

They're the holy grail of transportation engineering: streets and highways specifically designed to encourage automobilists to drive less quickly, reducing the rates of passenger fatalities and generally encouraging a safer urban environment.

Citation needed...

Roads are for us to get somewhere — and quickly...

Roadside parking?! (1)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671812)

Sure, it would make most of us drive slower, just like blind corners or a slippery road surface would, but are you sure it would make things safer? Mabye someone gets their bonus based only upon how much they get the traffic speed down.

Might have the opposite effect (2, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671820)

It is my experience that congested roadways are considerably more dangerous than ones with free flowing traffic, and when you slow down traffic you also increase congestion. It may be the case that free flowing traffic has more deadly accidents (due to the higher speeds involved) than accidents on congested roads, but the congested roads have a much much higher rate of accidents.

But as a person who actually drives, it always bugs me when I see these studies that invariably conclude that the worse you make driving, the safer it is. First it was cities with no street signs, and pointless traffic circles, and zigzags in the road, or just traffic lights programmed to jam up traffic as much as possible. Now we're going to remove the safety margins between vehicles and magically improve safety.

Maybe I'm nuts, but it seems like city planners would prefer it if just nobody drove at all and just took mass transit everywhere, which would be wonderful if they actually had usable mass transit outside of the city center.

Re:Might have the opposite effect (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671986)

The round about they use here in Oregon work very well at keeping speeding down in neighbor hoods.

Re:Might have the opposite effect (1)

hipp5 (1635263) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672144)

It may be the case that free flowing traffic has more deadly accidents (due to the higher speeds involved) than accidents on congested roads, but the congested roads have a much much higher rate of accidents.

But that's exactly the point. Wouldn't you prefer to crumple a few more bumpers in exchange for killing a few less people? I, personally, would define that as safer.

Solving the wrong problem? (1)

bosef1 (208943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671822)

The article seems unclear as to whether it is dealing with two-lane roads in urban or rural environments. There are a lot of rural two-lane roads in my area that I would prefer to see rebuilt with wider lanes and sholders that would let me safely drive faster.

Overall though, I'm not sure that designing roads (at least roads for automobiles) to slow down traffic is the problem that needs to be solved. My idea of road is a device that allows cars and other vehicles to travel _quickly_ and efficiently while preventing accidents that result in property damage, personal injury, and death. Instead of slowing roads down, I would prefer fast straight roads (within the constraints of preventing highway hypnosis) with additional controls and seperations to prevent the mixing of pedestrians, cyclists, and wildlife. That would include seperated grade automobile, bicycle, and pedestrial pathways, and fences and barriers to reduce cross-grade intrusions.

but what about the speed traps!?!?! (1)

WillyWanker (1502057) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671856)

Unfortunately this puts a kibosh on the lifeblood of many towns -- ticket revenue from speed traps. Y'know, where they purposefully lower the speed limits on open stretches of road so they can snag unsuspecting drivers. If they were to redesign the roads so that people drive slower they'll start to cut into their lucrative legal organized crime and extortion business. Hey, safety is good and all, but I'm betting they'll choose profit over safety every time.

two for one: A modest proposal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671884)

Stop maintaining the roads so giant potholes and sinkholes form, forcing drivers to slow down or destroy their suspension.

Not only do we save money on infrastructure that can be better spent on bank bailouts and the Pentagon, but we increase safety!

Many states are already way ahead on this plan, time for our Federal government to get in gear.

"Automobilists" ????? WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671920)

"Automobilists" What the....?????

How far up your own rear do you have to be to use make up the word "automobilists" instead of just saying "drivers".

Gah. I'm not even your typical /. grammar-nazi, but this one really annoyed me.

Just (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31671960)

cut grooves in the road. Their space will be dictated byt the speed you want people to go.

If you want the number 1 lane to be used for passing, keep the other lanes in better condition.

Death Race 2010 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671982)

They've perfected the formula for higher scores: more targets...er...obstacles

How about research to improve safety, productivity and collision costs as a goal - instead of this 30 year blind devotion to the slogan "Speed Kills"?

der, slowar is safar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31671990)

This is the same dingbatted "slowar is safar" logic my aunt has. She'll be passing a pulled over car on a narrow road with a high speed limit, requiring her to go into the oncoming traffic lane... and she slows down to idle and CRAWLS around it at, making sure she is in the high-risk "wrong lane" position for as long as humanly possible, because driving slower and being able to come to a stop faster is ALWAYS safer.

Safe following distances, maintaining good visibility, coasting through high risk intersections with your foot already over the brake, and reducing speed WHEN BENEFICIAL are great driving practices. But setting up distracting (storefronts), low visibility (line of 30 SUVS parked RIGHT along the road, often with pedestrians weaving between them) and otherwise outright dangerous driving conditions because they will scare people into slowing down is so stupid I'd like to smack around everyone involved in this study.

Easier Solution (Cooler, but too much work) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31672000)

Remember that car commercial with the musical notes playing by the grooves in the pavement? Do this to all of our roads, but do it so that the right speed makes the ride quiet. Not sure if they would have to play the inverse frequency like on noise cancellation headphones or something to do it, but would be more foolproof...

Built right? Just continue to neglect them. (1)

DougWebb (178910) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672026)

By neglecting the roads they become full of potholes, making them more dangerous and forcing drivers to slow down. I guess we could also remove all crosswalks and stoplights in order to encourage pedestrians to cross the roads in random places and at random times. The plentiful potholes will make crossing the road even more difficult; pedestrians will need to zigzag to get across so they'll spend more time in the road. What else could be done? Maybe remove safety netting that prevents rocks from falling into the roadway, and weakening the root systems of roadside trees so they're likely to fall over into the road. Plenty to watch out for there.

Finally, if we really want to spend some money on this "safety improvement": landmines.

Fuck this article (5, Insightful)

brxndxn (461473) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672050)

First of all, "holy grail of transportation engineering"?? Bullshit. The goal of transportation engineering should be to achieve the best balance of maximized capacity, efficiency, and safety. You can always make roads safer by slowing things down - until you try to make them safer by causing congestion.. and the congestion causes frustrated and aggressive driving. The study basically says to throw more shit in the way of drivers to slow things down.. That's because it's creating an unsafe environment.. and drivers naturally try to compensate for it.

Here in Florida, the transportation engineers have decided that old people react slower. Therefore, all traffic lights change slower.. So that causes inattentive driving since people can be waiting as much as 5 minutes between lights. Then, people are very slow to start proceeding through the intersection once lights turn green - partly because desperate drivers run all the yellow lights because they have to wait another 5 minutes between lights. My argument would be that traffic rules should not change to accomodate for people unable to follow the rules. Chicago's lights change quickly at an intersection..

Also, our political wanker of a governor (Charlie Christ) decided he did not like the 'move over law' because he said it promoted speeding. So, people are free to sit in the left lane of major highways going under the speed limit while others try to get around them. Florida interstates are a clusterfuck.. Nobody moves over.. So you have a clump of cars bumper to bumper for a mile.. and then a mile of highway that hardly has anyone on it.. I would argue it would be safer to have an actual passing lane and allow people to spread out.

Cars today have more horsepower, more traction, better safety, and more braking power than cars 20-30 years ago.. Yet, our speed limits have decreased.. Why?

Traffic is an absolute mess.. and the idea that 'slower is safer' is contributing to that mess.

Drive Safely Not Slowly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31672058)

Why are goverments so obsessed with speed rather than safety? On many 30mph roads here in the UK 45mph is perfectly safe but on others anything above 20mph is dangerous. The safe speed also changes depending on the weather conditions, time of day and other factors.

Despite this the govermnet sticks religionsly to the ideal that "above 30mph bad, below 30mph good". Now it seems some people want to make driving conditions more dangerous to get people driving at the "good" speed.

stupidity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31672094)

stupidy is the fact that the authors of the project miss the fact that the roads are invented to move faster from point A to point B. If to believe the study German Autobahn would be called the Road of Death, but somehow it's not.

  If you really want to move slower then just get rid of the roads altogether, then you will have 0.0000% fatalities associated with cars and driving.

  What DOT should be concerned about is "how to make roads to INCREASE the speed and INCREASE the safety at the same time"

Opposite needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31672138)

We should research how to drive faster, while staying safe, instead of reducing speed...

Theroy of Driving (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31672156)

There are exactly TWO reasons to drive, and virtually all reasons are either one, the other, or a combination of the two:

1) To get from point A to point B
2) To enjoy or experience the trip

If a person's primary motivation is #1 and they have very little or NO motivation from #2, the optimum method is to drive as quickly as will safely accomplish the task. (Because if you aren't safe, you may not get to point B, destroying your motivation).

If a person's primary motivation is #2, they are either enjoying the scenery, the car/vehicle, or some other aspect, and so speed-of-journey may or may not be relevant to them.

A polite driver with motivation #2 will ALWAYS be willing to allow other drivers with motivation #1 to pass them safely and quickly, without holding them up unduly. An impolite driver with motivation #2 may block traffic and thus destroy the safety of the road.

A polite driver with motivation #1 will not follow too closely, nor cut off drivers with motivation #2 who may be going slower.

There are some drivers with a variation of motivation #2: they desire to force other drivers to behave a certain way and derive pleasure or reward from it (i.e. they deliberately drive slower than is optimum for the safe flow of traffic enjoying holding others up, or they wish to enforce their personal view of what safe speed is when others disagree with them).

As a driver who most often drives with motive #1, I wish to safely get from point A to B as quickly as is safe for me and safe for others around me. It is amazing how many other drivers are oblivious to drivers like me and, with a degree of motivation #2, impolitely block traffic, drive in passing lanes when they really should not, being slower than the traffic average, and all-around cause unsafe conditions to a much greater degree than do those speedy drivers (motivation #1 OR #2) who are driving too fast for conditions (or are cutting people off dangerously).

So many drivers in my locality call in to radio talk shows and complain about how fast everyone drives. Yet in my experience, it is the slowpokes of the world (and it is OKAY to go slowly in my opinion, just do it POLITELY) want everyone else to drive just like they do. They WANT to reduce speed limits. They would LOVE this proposal, in spite of the fact that it would overall make roads more dangerous. This is just plain STUPID.

Please, slowpokes (and fast drivers), drive POLITELY, SAFELY, and respectfully of others on the road. When going slower than others, allow them to pass safely. Pull over onto the shoulder if you have to now and then. Your relaxation and enjoyment of the drive will improve. Fast drivers (me included), be a bit more patient. Give slowpokes a little more distance between vehicles, don't cut them off, don't follow too closely. We can all do better.

I really DONT want to be European... (0, Flamebait)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672170)

It's really pissing me off how almost every day another story comes out about how great they are doing things across the pond and how us dumb Americans are behind. Even our roads are under scrutiny? You know, the ones that we have dozens of times more than they all do combined? Their roads are cramped, twisted, uneven, and generally unsafe. (Much of that is because they were first made for horses!) Now we want to copy that to "encourage drivers to slow down?" Stupidest idea of the day. Nice how they try the line about how

Dutch drivers are less than half as likely as their American counterparts to die in a road accident.

but fail to mention if they are counting urban and highway accidents separate. Thats kind of a big difference as you are much more likely to die in a accident at 70 than 25, yet Europe has a tiny fraction of the highways we have.
I can absolutely see some idiot city planner designing a new residential zone following these rules, only to have home shoppers refuse to buy anything in the area because the roads suck. People won't want to live with this crap.
Further, they are happy over a reduction of 2.3mph? That's less than the margin of error on your speedometer! Hit someone at 22.7mph and you will do just as much damage as at 25mph, and with less visibility and tighter proximity, collisions are going to be more likely.

I'd always thought... (1)

emagery (914122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31672196)

that roads and cars could talk to one another... tiny rfid's in the road itself, little readers in the car... the road says 'hey, I'm 35mph!' and the car replies 'oh ___!' ... what happens after that can be debated.

This is how to get people to slow down, and crash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31672232)

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