Safety, reliability and accessibility are all key components in road design. Traffic engineers work to make the driving environment as safe as possible for motorists. They use lighting, improved signage, adjusted curves, better left-hand turn lanes and traffic calming techniques like roundabouts and speed bumps. They tap into crash data to identify high-risk areas like intersections or steep grades and make decisions on how to implement engineering changes to reduce the crash rate.
Vehicle safety engineers are also hard at work making crash avoidance improvements inside the car. New technology alerts drivers to potential unsafe conditions ahead. For instance, if the car is approaching a vehicle or stationary obstacle at a speed which will make it difficult to stop in time, it will alert the driver. If the driver fails to take corrective action by either applying the brakes or making a steering change, the car will take over and make the necessary adjustments to speed, direction or both. This technology has great promise since 85 percent of all crashes involve road-departures, rear-end collisions and/or intersections.
Road and vehicle safety engineers analyze data from crash investigations and traffic stops to identify high priority safety issues and make decisions about how to address those problems. For road engineers, looking at crash data through an analytics lens could point out an intersection with a high rate of left hand turn crashes. Based on this analysis, engineers would be able to make adjustments like shifting the left turn lane to shorten the turn distance.
Inside the car, vehicle safety engineers prioritize their efforts based on what the crash data show. For example, crash data analytics might show an increase in road departure crashes. Based on that analysis, vehicle safety engineers can make adjustments to instruments in the car as well as alerts that can help control driver errors and keep the vehicle safely on the road.
Time to move on! Next stop: Emergency Response.