Flexible response to changing traffic situations
A similar approach can be seen when the breakdown lane is opened for vehicles. When traffic is particularly dense, variable signage indicates that the shoulders are temporarily open as additional lanes, often ahead of exits. As well as having many other positive effects, this measure helps to prevent jams and, in turn, accidents. But this system works properly only if the shoulders along the relevant sections of road are permanently monitored and can be blocked off for vehicles that have either broken down or were involved in an accident.
Nevertheless, the ability to respond flexibly to ever- changing traffic situations is a key element of improving road safety. Variable signage on highways or in the vicinity of exhibition and event centers has been around for a long time now, and major advances in the field of sensor, telecommunication and, of course, computer technology as well as in our understanding of traffic thows have seen the development of ever more refined and enhanced systems. the dovetailing of information and telecommunication technology and the interconnection of different forms of road use mean that it is now possible to implement targeted traffic management measures not only nationwide, but also in busy urban areas.
The pairing of traffic regulation and traffic information for road users is also showing some success. In the UK, the National Traffic Control Centre (NTCC) offers real-time information on traffic conditions on highways and arterial roads. In London, the London Streets Traffic Control Centre (LSTCC) monitors and manages the traffic on the capital’s roads. Similar – in some cases even more advanced – centers have been established in, for example, Warsaw, Moscow and Tokyo. Ongoing advances in the foeld of telematics will see lots more exciting and useful developments to come.
But it is not only technology that plays a key role in increasing road safety, but each individual road user, too. As long as drivers trust non-networked navigation systems more than traffic management centers or take shortcuts through residential areas to avoid jammed-up main roads, there will always be avoidable traffic risks. Rigid adherence to one mode of transport – usually the car – also causes unnecessary congestion, with all the accident risks that this entails. The increasing popularity of car-, scooter- and bike-sharing schemes, using public transport for at least some journeys as well as traveling by bicycle or on foot are not just worthy trends for “other people.” Flexibility in our mobility starts with each and every one of us. Technology is just a means to an end.
To encourage people to use different modes of transport, a node-based infrastructure is essential. In particular, this involves creating secure facilities for parking cars, bicycles and alternative forms of transports like Segways at locations with good public transport links. Proper bicycle parking garages situated close to busy train stations can be frequently found in the Netherlands and in certain Asian countries. Kyoto in Japan even has fully automatic underground garages. Covered, secure bicycle stands should be available at as many stations as possible. In addition, measures designed to ensure that bicycles can be safely transported on public transport and long-distance trains can help to improve road safety. The more attractive the options, the greater the acceptance among potential users.
More forgiving safety systems for motorcyclists
Considerable room for improvement also exists outside of urban areas, too. The higher speeds on rural roads mean that it is no longer pedestrians and cyclists who suffer the most accidents, but motorists. Infrastructural improvements for motorcyclists aim to reduce the risks associated with what is an especially dangerous form of road transport.
Measures designed to keep the road surface in good condition benefit all other road users as well. The bituminous mass used in some countries to repair potholes or cracks in the road can quickly pose a major risk to motorcyclists, which is why repairs should be undertaken using only materials with a similar frictional coeficient to the rest of the road surface. Quickly repairing potholes prevents further damage to the road surface and the prevalence of loose chippings during larger-scale repairs.
In addition, crash barriers should be designed to offer the best possible protection for colliding motorcyclists. The combination of a large upper surface – for example, a box section – with skirting installed under the pillar to stop motorcyclists from hitting the post has proved effective not only in crash tests, but also in real accidents. In many cases, skirting can be fitted to existing systems. The “Euskirchen Plus” system, for example, which was developed by DEKRA on behalf of the German Federal Highway Research Institute, offers comparatively greater protection for colliding motorcyclists.