4 Ways To Improve Road Safety and Reduce Speeding

By Sean Delmore, Director of Traffic, WSB
April 15, 2024

Excessive speed is a problem faced on roads all over the country whether rural or urban. No matter what a speed limit sign may say there will be drivers who will exceed the limit if they feel they can. The best way to reduce speeding is to design our roadways to encourage the behavior we want. When looking at designing a new road or updating an existing one, there are four ways to limit speeding: horizontal deflection, vertical reflection, width reduction, and feedback signs.

Designing Horizontal Deflections To Organically Lower Speeds

If your roadways look and feel like a long runway drivers will naturally feel comfortable with higher speeds. To circumvent this, including lateral shifts or roundabouts will break up long stretches of road and force drivers to reduce speeding to safely maneuver turns. By implementing horizontal deflections in roadways driver behavior can be altered organically in a way that simply placing a speed limit sign could not.

Sharp curves in a roadway are an effective way to decrease speeds. However, care must be taken because if the noted speed for one curve is not accurate and drivers are able to comfortably drive at higher speeds, they will be less likely to match the marked speeds at other curves. Drivers will regularly match the speed they feel most comfortable with, not the one listed on the sign. Additionally, signage like chevrons and flashing lights can help convince the drivers that the speed advisory needs to be adhered to for their own safety. With proper signage, long curves are an effective way to lower speeds.

Installing Vertical Deflections Sparingly

The introduction of speed bumps, tables, and raised crossings to a roadway is a physical barrier that forces drivers to reduce speeding. However, vertical deflections are used sparingly because they can create difficulties for maintenance, plowing, and emergency services. It is for this reason that speed bumps and tables are primarily used in parking lots or lower traffic areas like residential roads.

Reducing Road Width to Improve Safety

The wider the road the more likely drivers will be willing to change lanes to maintain higher speeds. After data collection is performed and it is determined that, for instance, a four-lane road does not carry enough traffic volume to justify its width, a variety of modifications can be made. Removing excess lanes to implement bike lanes and adding constant turn lanes are some examples. They assist with traffic flow on top of width reduction to limit the potential for drivers to speed. In addition, width reduction has the benefit of shrinking the distance of crosswalks which improves pedestrian safety.

Benefitting From Instant Feedback

Driver feedback signs that use flashing lights and show the incoming driver’s speed are an effective way to drive down speeds over short distances. Radar signs with instant feedback are best applied in transition areas, like the lead up into a small town where the posted speed limit can drop from 55 to 40 and then to 30 miles per hour. As drivers slow down in response to the feedback, they will be less likely to speed back up once they reach the lower speeds in town. However, feedback signs are far less effective outside of transition areas as driver compliance can be expected only so long as the feedback is visible.

What WSB Can Do to Help?

WSB staff brings vast experiences working with agencies on a wide variety of construction projects all across the country. Whether updating existing roadways or designing brand new, WSB’s traffic team will cover every avenue to make roads safer. Additionally, as many agencies are moving forward with focusing improvements to put more focus on the Americans with Disabilities Act, WSB has been leading the way in showing the value of not only making drivers and pedestrians safer, but also making our roads more equitable for everyone.

Sean has nearly 30 years of transportation experience. He specializes in traffic operations, lighting, signing & striping, and signal design. He is a licensed Professional Traffic Operations Engineer and leads WSB’s Traffic Engineering Group. Prior to joining WSB, Sean served 17 years with MnDOT, where he worked mainly in the Metro and Central Office Traffic Engineering.

[email protected] | 612.360.1322

Sean Delmore

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