Research Suggests That Adding Obstacles At Intersections Could Make Left Turns Safer For Pedestrians
Left-turn accidents are particularly dangerous for pedestrians because they can be taken at a wider angle, which leads to greater pedestrian exposure and increased speeds. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, more than 50% of all crashes involving pedestrians occurred at intersections in 2018, resulting in over 6,700 severe injuries to pedestrians and more than 1,500 pedestrian deaths. These crashes accounted for almost a third of all pedestrian-involved accidents at intersections in 2018.
To fight this problem, the IIHS encourages the use of a technique known as “centerline hardening.” According to the IIHS, this technique encourages drivers to slow down to reasonable speeds when making left turns, making it safe for pedestrians. Centerline hardening uses features such as rubber curbs and bollards to create an obstacle that vehicles are forced to drive around. Without such barriers, vehicles turning left usually cut across intersections at higher speeds.
To determine how effective centerline hardening is, IIHS Senior Research Transportation Engineer Wen Hu conducted a study. Wen Hu gathered data from ten Washington D.C. intersections during two months before and three months after the changes over similar observation windows and then compared the data with data collected from eight control sites where no changes were made. According to Hu, the number of accidents between pedestrians and vehicles fell from seven to two following the installation of the centerline-hardening features. Wen Hu further noted that most of the reduction in conflicts happened at two intersections that had a large number of conflicts in the previous period. A conflict was defined as any time a driver had to swerve or brake to avoid a pedestrian, or a pedestrian had to dodge out of the way or stop short to avoid being hit by a motorist.
When it comes to speed, Wen Hu found that the average turning speed dropped by 7% after the installation of the hardening features. On the other hand, the average turning speed at the eight control sites where no centerline-hardening features were installed increased by 3%. Additionally, Wen Hu noted that the portion of motorists who made left turns at speeds greater than 15 mph fell by 36% at the ten modified intersections. According to the IIHS, a vehicle’s speed in a pedestrian accident is linked with the risk of serious injury. The odds of a pedestrian suffering a severe injury rise from 1 in 10 to 1 in 4 as left-turn speeds increase from 17 mph to 25 mph.
Wen Hu collected data on speeds and conflicts during the day and in dry weather. Speeds were collected when the motorist completed the turn.
According to Wen Hu, centerline hardening is an effective accident controlling tool, especially if used alongside other measures that have been found to reduce risks for pedestrians, such as curb extensions, road diets, and median islands.
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Transportation departments across America are rethinking the mechanics of making a left turn. The primary goal is to find ways of improving road safety and reducing the likelihood of left-turn accidents, especially left-turn accidents involving pedestrians. Unfortunately, for now, left-turn accidents involving pedestrians continue happening at an alarming rate.
If you were hit by a left-turning driver while walking on the road, contact the skilled Key West & Marathon car accident attorney at Florida Keys injury today to get legal help.