Greater safety through overtaking lanes and crash barriers
Since an average of more than 60% of people lose their lives on rural roads not only in Germany but also in most other EU member states, significant optimization potential exists here in other respects, too. For example, accidents involving collisions with oncoming vehicles on rural roads could in many cases be prevented by implementing section-by-section overtaking bans in combination with additional overtaking lanes. Fortunately, the currently applicable guidelines for designing rural roads in Germany mean that overtaking lanes are included as standard in the planning of new and extension of existing roads as a means of increasing the number of safe overtaking opportunities along these roads. The effectiveness of this measure is uncontested and has in fact been confirmed by the findings of the “Improving Safety on Single-Carriageway Non-Urban Roads” (AOSI) research program conducted by the German Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt). The optimum solution, as implemented in Sweden, would be to widen alternating sections of the road to three lanes, with the carriageways physically separated.
Great attention must also be devoted to the problem of collisions with trees because such accidents tend to be especially severe. In Germany in 2014, 555 people lost their lives on rural roads after their vehicle collided with a tree – that’s around 27% of all 2,019 traffic fatalities on these kind of roads. Despite the positive trend over the past few years, collisions with trees are still disproportionately represented in the statistics on fatal accidents. Since it is not possible for the edges of all roads to be completely free of hazards, however, suitable measures have to be taken on existing roads and in the planning of new roads – for example, by applying the recommendations for protecting against collisions with trees (“ESAB”) and the guidelines for passive protection on roads through vehicle restraint systems (“RPS”). According to the BMVI, recommendations proposed by national committees have also meant that the possibility of erecting special protective installations in front of trees is being considered.
The latter is particularly important on rural roads and in particular for motorcyclists who, after car occupants, account for the biggest number of fatalities on rural roads in nearly every EU state. The effectiveness of crash barriers erected at bends in the road should be increased by installing continuous skirting. The plastic padding attached to hazardous posts was an emergency measures that can now be replaced by more effective protective elements. The “Euskirchen Plus” system, for example, which was developed by DEKRA on behalf of the German Federal Highway Research Institute, offers much greater protection for motorcyclists who collide with the crash barrier.