In Massachusetts You are Meant to Wave to Drivers at Crosswalks!

We presume the instruction for pedestrians to ‘wave’ before going over crosswalks in Great Barrington, MA, means they should make eye-contact with the drivers of approaching vehicles.  But will it work?

On each end of the crosswalks in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, is the instruction for pedestrians to 'Stop, Look, and Wave!!
‘Stop, Look & Wave’ is the instruction on crosswalks in Gt Barrington, MA. (Copyright image, 2018.)

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Will the USA Get Safer Road Signs? — The FHWA is updating the MUTCD!

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced this month (October 2018) that it is pursuing an update to the “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways” — the MUTCD — in preparation for the future of automated vehicles and to afford states and local communities with more opportunities to utilize innovation.

Photograph of a "Bump" sign but the p is covered by snow.
Who knew that snow has a sense of humor? (Copyright image, 2013)

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U.S. Roundabouts can Create Risks and Confusion

On September 18, 2018, Maine DOT published the following wording and roundabout design on their Facebook page, but unfortunately the layout is unsatisfactory:

“It’s National Roundabout Week! Roundabouts have proven to be far safer than traditional intersections, but some people are still unsure of how to navigate them…” 

The problem is that, like most other states, Maine is apparently following the Federal Highways Administration [FHWA] ethos on roundabout construction but such guidelines deliberately ignore global best practices that have been developed over the fifty years in which the USA failed to build what are properly called “modern roundabouts.”  Sadly, the result is roundabouts that can have multiple potential safety flaws, just like the one in this illustration, as posted by Maine DOT.

The full layout of a new roundabout, as published by Maine DOT on September 18, 2018.

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Dangerous Intersections Awaiting Long-Overdue Roundabouts

At the east end of the evocatively-named Rip Van Winkle Bridge in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York State is a seriously dangerous intersection where, briefly, routes 23 and 9G merge together.

Photograph of the southern merge point of routes 23 and 9G in Columbia County, NY.
A combination of inadequately-educated drivers crossing paths, at significant speeds, with impatient drivers at three separate locations within this photograph has led to many serious crashes over the years. At long last, it is now set to be replaced with a roundabout and this inevitably will lead to a significant reduction in serious injuries and deaths. According to NYDOT, work is scheduled to commence in summer and end in fall, 2018, although time might be running out for that. (Copyright image, 2018.)

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Puzzling or Inaccurate Road Signs: No.1

Unclear or inaccurate traffic signs, road signs, pavement markings or road markings — call them what you prefer — can cause confusion or even danger.

Here’s one from Colorado, photographed in May 2018, but what exactly does it mean?

Photograph of a road sign that reads: "In case of flood climb to safety."
Confusing traffic signs: What exactly does this mean? Climb onto the roof of your car? Somehow try to get to a tree and assuming you are young, strong and nimble, climb that? Swim for the nearest hillside? The ONLY safe message in relation to road vehicles is do not drive into water that is covering the road and is either flowing or may be deeper than it looks. (Copyright image, 2018.)

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America’s Most Dangerous Intersections — the Need for More, Better-Designed Roundabouts, plus Accurate Info for Drivers!

In an article published in January 2018, Business Insider listed the most dangerous intersection in every state in the USA, and in each case there was an accompanying photograph, although not always from a suitable angle or elevation.

From what can be seen in the photographs, many of the intersections would benefit tremendously from the installation of a roundabout.  Roundabouts don’t necessarily reduce the overall number of collisions — indeed when first installed a roundabout may see an increase in the number of minor collisions while people get used to the new type of intersection — but the number of serious collisions, involving injuries and deaths, will drop dramatically as long as the roundabout is well-designed, and just as importantly, as long as the drivers in that state are being taught the best way to drive into, around and out of roundabouts.  However, while the first of these points is increasingly being met (although not so in the first photograph shown below), the second — the education aspect — is deliberately and unforgivably being rejected by the FHWA, and as a result, all state-level DOTs that we know of.

A photograph from above of a roundabout intersection in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan.
This intersection in West Bloomfield Township is the most dangerous in Michigan and is logically therefore one of the most dangerous in the USA. Given that it is already a roundabout, this is particularly disappointing because roundabouts are the safest form of intersection. The conclusion must therefore be that one or more things are wrong with this particular roundabout (see the article text, below) and perhaps with other relevant factors in Michigan in general. (Photo: Google Maps)

Back in 2010, at a conference in Washington, DC, about the then-imminent commencement of the international ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety, 2011-2020’, I had the good fortune to meet the very likable Joe Toole, who was then the head of the Federal Highway Administration [FHWA], one of the two executive divisions of the USDOT. Continue reading “America’s Most Dangerous Intersections — the Need for More, Better-Designed Roundabouts, plus Accurate Info for Drivers!”

Self-driving cars are imminent but America’s roads aren’t ready for them

Website ‘The Hill’, which reports news from the Senate and the House, has published an article on the fact that while autonomous vehicles are rapidly being developed America’s roads are simply not ready for them.

Photo of a Google self-driving car
Google Self-Driving Car (Wikimedia Commons image)

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USA: Crosswalks made with Low Quality Paint or in Pretty Colors are Potentially Deadly

Poor quality paint is dangerously and very frequently used for pavement markings and crosswalks in the USA, in place of more-expensive but vastly-safer thermoplastic materials which have a high-glass-bead content for excellent reflectivity at night and in bad weather.

A photo showing the loaction of two supposedly bright yellow crosswalks but they become invisible in rain at night because of the use of cheap paint.
Two bright yellow-painted crosswalks in Falmouth, MA, from crucial angles invisible during and just after heavy rain at night. The yellow is a futile waste of time if it becomes invisible at certain times! (Copyright image.)

Compare the photo above with the one below.  They are at the same location and were taken less than 12 hours apart.
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Autonomous Vehicles? Traffic Signs can be Hacked!

According to Autoblog, university researchers “have figured out how to hack self-driving cars by putting stickers on street signs.”

Photo of a stop sign, showing digital markings designed to mislead an autonomous vehicle.
A “hacked” stop sign. Read all about this potentially dangerous development at https://www.autoblog.com/2017/08/04/self-driving-car-sign-hack-stickers/

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Major Safety Improvements in New Zealand Could be Good for US Route 1 – the Pacific Coast Highway

Removing or alternating passing/overtaking possibilities on undivided rural highways, together with the introduction of narrow-profile guard rails between the center lines is a technique that was pioneered very successfully by Sweden and has now been used with similar success in New Zealand.  And there’s definitely both the scope and the need to use it in the USA, too.

Photo of the Pacific Coast Highway, north of Malibu, California
Part of an ADoNA defensive and advanced driving training route, this is a small section of the Pacific Coast Highway, north of Malibu, California (with a school bus and several cars in the middle distance). Copyright image.

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