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Transportation

How To Build Roads To Control How Fast You Drive 801

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the how-about-ramps dept.
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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How To Build Roads To Control How Fast You Drive

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  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:21AM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious (631665)

      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.

      • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:31AM (#31671552) Homepage Journal

        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.

        • by hattig (47930) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:51AM (#31672032) Journal

          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).

          • by Anarki2004 (1652007) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:02PM (#31672250) Homepage Journal

            You shouldn't assume the entire population can drive. Try that again, but use licensed drivers/registered vehicles in place of the total population of the country. Also, I believe that the US has closer to 350m people (not that it matters since you won't be using that number).

            p.s: I would do it myself but I'm just too damn lazy.

            • by jeffmeden (135043) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:26PM (#31672706) Homepage Journal

              Ahem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_OECD_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate [wikipedia.org]

              I think what you meant to ask for was "how many deaths per unit of vehicle distance travelled" since this controls not for how many drivers there are but for how much driving is actually going on. If you compare these numbers, you see that the US sees about 9 deaths per billion kilometers, and the UK sees 6.3 deaths. It's slightly more genuine and not nearly as 'shocking' (1.4x more vs 3.3x more fatalities) than the blanket deaths per person metric mentioned earlier. The UK sees fewer deaths overall in just about every measurable metric, however speculating on the actual causation is an exercise in futility left to the reader.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jaavaaguru (261551)

              What does it matter if the entire population drives or doesn't drive?

              Being in a situation where nobody drives or nobody needs to drive is a viable solution to cutting the amount of deaths resulting from road traffic accidents.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TheRaven64 (641858)
            Deaths per person are not a particularly useful statistic in this case. You need to compare deaths per mile driven. In my (totally anecdotal) experience, people in the USA tend to drive a lot more than people in the UK; they'd happily commute a daily distance that no one in the UK would put up with and drive distances that most people that I know in the UK would walk. If people in the USA drive four times as much (I've no idea if they do) then that makes the roads in the UK less safe, on average. It's a
          • by quickgold192 (1014925) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:19PM (#31672554)

            British driving population:30,000,000
            American driving population:193,552,000

            0.00833 British deaths per 100 drivers
            0.0217 American deaths per 100 drivers

            (done for Anarki)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jittles (1613415)
            But what is the ratio of time people spend in the car in the UK versus the US? Because clearly the more time you spend in a car the more likely you are to die in a car accident.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by paeanblack (191171)

            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.

            Be very careful when you bring monetary arguments into traffic safety debates. Beyond 40-45 mph, the average medical costs for an accident starts to go back down. Not to be crass, but a funeral is cheaper than

        • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:04PM (#31672278) Journal

          Regarding UK roads - generally, the accident rate in the UK is about 1/3rd of the accident rate in the US - UK roads are vastly safer.

          However, this probably has a lot to do with driver training which is generally much more thorough in the UK - as well as other things, such as drink-driving laws where a driving ban really means a driving ban - in many parts of the US, they still allow you to drive to work and back if you're "banned" for drunken driving. On the motorway system, it may have things to do with the general better design of junctions which lack things like decreasing radius turns (which seem depressingly common, at least in Texas where I used to live) and insane junction designs like what can be found on the I-610/I-45 junction in Houston, or the hwy-59 / I-610 junction near Westheimer in Houston (both which have almost permanent traffic jams alongside traffic doing 70 mph one lane to the left, with people trying to get out of the stopped lane from a standing start).

      • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Drethon (1445051)
      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?
    • 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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by pitchpipe (708843)

        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.

    • Right, but at least the passengers are safe.
    • by SIR_Taco (467460) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:39AM (#31671744) Homepage

      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.

      • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:10PM (#31672394) Journal

        Slowing also reduces pedestrian fatalities - at 20 mph, a collision with a pedestrian is unlikely to kill (around 10% chance, according to UK government figures), at 40 mph, it's overwhelmingly likely to kill (90% chance). At 30 mph, this is reduced to 50%. Kinetic energy increases at the square of speed, so small reductions in speed have a proportionately great reduction in collision energy.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by godrik (1287354)

          But you probably also increase the amount of collisions. To me, it looks like trading two fatal injuries with one fatal injuries and ten major injuries. I am not sure it really is better.

          PS: For those who wonder, thoses numbers come from the ether.

    • Risk balancing (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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

    • by Ichijo (607641)

      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?

    • by inigopete (780297) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:50AM (#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."

  • Toll booths. Yes, tool booths will slow down traffic. Or speed bumps, but they aren't as irritating as the toll booths.
    • by bugi (8479)

      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?

      • Around here, we have a law that says the state (as in US state) sets the speed limits on all roads unless a waiver is given to a locality (city or county) to override the speed limit that would ordinarily apply to a given road.

        I'm sure the purpose is both uniformity (so everyone "knows" how fast to drive on unfamiliar or unposted roads) and to prevent municipalities from changing speed limits arbitrarily (speed traps, etc).

        The side effect to this in the larger urban areas is that in response to heavy traffi

    • pain bumps... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by butterflysrage (1066514) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:36AM (#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

  • 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.

    • by Vancorps (746090)

      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

  • 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), highe

    • by IBBoard (1128019)

      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).

      • by garcia (6573)

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

  • That way people are on the road for less time.
    • by dasunt (249686) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:45AM (#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.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:28AM (#31671494) Journal

    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!

  • by russotto (537200) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:33AM (#31671604) Journal

    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 (Score:5, Funny)

    by stevied (169) * on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:33AM (#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 ..
  • Wow (Score:5, Informative)

    by mdarksbane (587589) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:35AM (#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).

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

      that's the whole point

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160)
        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mdarksbane (587589)

        I would be surprised if assholes were deterred by narrower lanes. Anyone on a residential road who feels that *they* are safe at 90 mph isn't paying attention to rational queues.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geekoid (135745)

      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.

  • by dingen (958134) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:35AM (#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.

    • 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.

  • Other strategies... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by petaflop (682818) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:38AM (#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.

    • by SoTerrified (660807) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:57AM (#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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Totenglocke (1291680)
        Speeding has very little to do with unsafe driving. Unsafe driving is caused by tailgating, not using your turn signals, not looking before changing lanes, swerving through traffic to try and get ahead - things like that. You can drive fast and still drive safely (as is shown in many European countries where it's legal to drive significantly faster than the US, yet the number of accidents are fewer). I say we take a page out of Germany's book and start issuing tickets for tailgating and not speeding, unl
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by roman_mir (125474)

      That is really cute. I would just stop caring and go through the red.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dfghjk (711126)

      There are significant differences in the use of speed limits in the US versus Europe. US speed limits are slower with a larger amount of enforcement judgement granted the police. The purpose of that approach is to create a large body of willing speeders to generate revenue off of. Drivers tend to disregard posted limits when they are unreasonable. My experience in Europe is that speed limits are more reasonable with less tolerance of speeding. Their attitude seems to be maintaining safe speeds rather t

  • It doesn't work. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SoTerrified (660807) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:38AM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gadgetfreak (97865)

      Agreed. I have an Engineering degree from UConn, and I was rather embarrassed to read the article. I still live in Connecticut, and I actually seek out unfamiliar, curvy, "slow" roads to drive my roadster on. I realize most people aren't driving enthusiasts, but if you build a twisty road, some people will want to drive on it because of that.

      I've come to the determination that the adage amongst driving enthusiasts is true: It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car fast. It's all abou

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:42AM (#31671820) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by geekoid (135745)

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

  • 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.
  • by geekoid (135745)

    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.

  • 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 int

  • Fuck this article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brxndxn (461473) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @11:52AM (#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.

    • by xdroop (4039) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:25PM (#31672676) Homepage Journal

      Seriously?

      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?

      Because the monkey behind the wheel hasn't improved any, is now distracted by his cell phone, GPS, and on-board DVD players, and statistically is older than the monkey behind the wheel was 20-30 years ago.

      Basically, the monkey is the critical part in the system, and it just isn't getting any better.

      (Well except for you. You are a MAGNIFICENT driver, and we should all just stay the hell out of your way when you drive.)

  • Wrong direction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MpVpRb (1423381) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @12:05PM (#31672316)

    How about designing roads that are safer to drive fast on.

    Fast is good if it's safe

  • Folks in our town have been trying to slow down traffic on one of the main routes that passes along a mixed-use corridor: residential housing, commercial, and industrial properties all along a half-mile stretch. The speed limit is 45 mph.

    That wouldn't be too bad if not for two factors: 1) the street lies between a residential neighborhood and the local elementary school, and 2) there's a convenience store along the route with very high vehicle and foot traffic. Since we moved onto that stretch, we've witnessed about six accidents each year in front of the convenience store. The convenience store happens to be at the most-common crossing point for kids going to the school, too. Since we are living along the stretch and have young children, we've added our voice to local efforts to reduce the speed to 30 mph. The city would like the speed reduced, but it is technically a county road, and the county won't change it. For the past few years, we've told our kids not to play in the front yard (facing the street) or in the driveway. This year, we reversed ourselves. Just last weekend, we erected a basketball hoop in our driveway. As soon as we were out there playing, traffic started to slow down. Sometimes, unfortunately, to speeds well below 30 mph!

    We figure it's only a matter of time before there is either an accident or before we get a letter from the city and/or county asking us to take down the basketball hoop. Some of the other residents along the route appreciate the change, but only time will show whether or not they start using their front yards and driveways again. For now, I'll enjoy the sound of engine breaking as the big trucks (the ones that want to run through the stretch at 55 mph!) slow down each time they see the kids in the driveway or the yard.
  • Ugh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jwiegley (520444) on Tuesday March 30, 2010 @05:17PM (#31677748)

    This damn topic comes up all the time... Faster driving equals {more deaths, higher fuel consumption, etc}. And it's crap. Let's see... Even if given our current conditions deaths were reduced by slower average speeds the proposition of the article would not necessarily save lives.

    Fine, build tighter setbacks... That means bringing the buildings closer to the road. This would lead to people living, playing and existing closer to the road. This means people stepping off their front porch and WHAM! Basically, were is the study that shows that bringing the buildings closer doesn't increase deaths more than is decreased by the reduction of velocity?

    Do you REALLY want to decrease traffic fatalities? Fine.. Kill drunk drivers. No you don't get a second chance. Next, require driver road tests for licensing... EVERY year. Not just a "sign here on the dotted line"... but a god-damn TEST! Do it in a simulator. Simulate stalling an engine. Simulate a blown tire. Simulate a skid on ice. Simulate a 5 yr old jumping in front of you. Measure reaction times. Basically do for drivers what airline pilots have to go through. You don't have to handle everything 100% but you do need to achieve some sort of success to pass. No this is not insane. Pilots have to do it and the probability of them harming someone is far less than the operator of a motor vehicle. Thus we should actually require more of a motor vehicle operator. This would either weed out EVERYONE who is a poor driver or force them to educate and train themselves well enough to be acceptable drivers.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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