August 4, 2005


Averting crashes not expensive, IIHS says

Arlington, Virginia – One million crash injuries occur each year on urban and suburban roads in the United States, but reducing them doesn’t have to cost a lot or disrupt traffic, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

About 8,000 deaths and more than 1 million injuries occur on urban arterial roads, many in predictable locations and involving predictable sequences of contributing events. Some relatively simple and inexpensive roadway changes can be effective.

“Urban arterials weren’t built to accommodate today’s heavy traffic. They’ve evolved as traffic has increased, and they haven’t always evolved in the best way to enhance safety and ensure a smooth flow of traffic. So it’s a matter of studying urban arterials to pinpoint where crashes are occurring frequently and then identifying potential solutions, looking first for less costly measures that can be implemented more quickly than major re-engineering,” says Richard Retting, senior transportation engineer at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

To demonstrate, Retting led a project involving a major arterial in suburban Fairfax County, Virginia. Among the changes made were added protected turn signals for left-hand turns; a marked pavement with arrows; an extended merge lane; an eliminated bus stop; and a widened shoulder to accommodate a bus stop. The protected signal reduced crashes from an average of 4.6 to zero; the extended merge lane reduced them from 8.2 to zero; and widening the shoulder to accommodate buses reduced rear-end crashes from 4.3 to 2.5 per year.

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