How Effective are Urban Road Safety Initiatives?

In 2021 42,939 people were killed on America’s roads. While provisional figures for 2022 look very slightly lower, these numbers are still the highest since the bad old days of the late 1970s. This seems astonishing given that today’s cars and driving rules are so much safer now than they were 40 odd years ago.

However, a closer look suggests the problem has less to do with the equipment and the regulations than with the operators. For one thing, despite comprising less than 30 percent of America’s four million miles of roads, urban roads see more fatalities than rural ones. Secondly, speeding-related fatalities have increased significantly over the past decade, with more than half taking place on roads with limits of 35mph or lower.

Initiatives to Improve Road Safety

Initiatives are being rolled out across the US as part of the Federal Highways Administration’s (FHWA’s) Proven Safety Countermeasures initiative (PSCi). This is a collection of 28 strategies claimed to be “effective in reducing roadway fatalities and serious injuries” across the USA.

These are fine words, but they do not explain why more cyclists, pedestrians and their families needed to speak with a lawyer as a result of a road accident last year than ever before. Here, we look at three of the most important parts of PSCi from the perspective of urban roads.

1) Cycle Lanes

The latest research data from AAA found that collisions with pedestrians and cyclists accounted for the largest proportion of fatalities on urban roads over the most recent study period. Most serious bicycling accidents occur at non-junctions and involve overtaking motorists.

Researchers believe cycle lanes can reduce accidents by between 30 and 50 percent. Over the past 20 years, more than 18,000 miles of cycle lanes have been introduced across 34 states.

2) Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements

On roads with average traffic of more than 10,000 vehicles per day, road markings alone are insufficient to make crosswalks clearly visible to traffic, due to other vehicles and other obstructions obscuring the driver’s eye view.

There are three main ways of making crosswalks more visible, and these are as follows:

  • High-visibility crosswalks
  • Lighting
  • Signing and pavement markings

These enhancements also help pedestrians to clearly see where it is safer to cross. These enhancements can reduce accidents by between 30 and 40 percent.

3) Speed Cameras

Already widely in use in the UK, speed cameras can be controversial. However, the statistics clearly show that the problem on urban roads is not the speed limits but drivers failing to adhere to them. By issuing instant automated penalties, speed cameras are an effective deterrent. The controversy tends to arise when they are concealed, giving the impression that their objective is to catch offenders as opposed to deterring offending.

What is beyond doubt is that fixed units demonstrably reduce accidents on urban roads by between 45 and 55 percent, a rate that is too significant to ignore.