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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Does Mexico do a Better Job with Road Signs than the USA?

While instructing on an advanced driving course recently in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, I was briefly found it funny when I saw this sign but after a few moments of humor I was more dismayed than amused.  Read on and you’ll find out why.

Photograph of a text-based road sign that reads 'Draw Bridge Ahead'.
The humor of this sign comes from the fact that it should be just one word:  “Drawbridge”.  To write ‘draw bridge ahead’ is an instruction to get your sketchbook and pencils ready!  But using text instead of images on traffic signs is actually an issue that harms road safety.  See the accompanying text.  (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!”

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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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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What is it with the USA and Roundabouts? Wasting Time & Money, Reinventing a Wheel!

In surprise and great dismay, I nearly spat my mouthful of coffee all over my keyboard when I read the article More traffic experiments planned in Fayetteville a few minutes ago, from the Fayetteville Flyer.

Traffic circles, of a sort, were allegedly first built by the Romans in order to expedite chariot movements at busy intersections 2,000 years ago.  Some countries still use basic traffic circles and if you are an adrenalin junky, go to Paris and try driving on the one around the Arc de Triomphe when vehicles are flowing thick and fast!  However, what today are properly called “modern roundabouts” were invented half-a-century ago in 1960s Britain.
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Be Safe by the Roads or if Driving During the Solar Eclipse

Important safety advice from the FHWA.  The solar eclipse is on August 21.  Visit their website for more information: https://lnkd.in/dv36xic

Photo: A warning about carelessness during the eclipse, from the FHWA
A warning about carelessness during the eclipse, from the FHWA
ADoNA Comments

If you are driving at the time of the eclipse, then apart from not parking at an unwise location to watch the event yourself, please do be careful not to hit anyone that does stop at a bad place.  Naturally, headlights — not just Daytime Running Lights, because typically they don’t activate your rear lights — should be used throughout the periods of half-light as well as the true darkness.