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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 72 · No. 4 > Guest Editorial

Jan/Feb 2009
Vol. 72 · No. 4

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-09-002

Guest Editorial

Ongoing Testing and Deployment of Safety Measures

A photo of David A. Nicol. Director of Office of Safety Design The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and for that matter the entire highway community, faces immense challenges in reducing the loss of life on U.S. highways. Advances are needed in all four E's of safety: engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency services. On the engineering side, FHWA has researched, marketed, and promoted a number of innovative features and practices. In-service evaluations have proven that many of these measures save lives when used in the proper locations and conditions.

On July 10, 2008, Associate Administrator for Safety Jeffrey A. Lindley issued a memorandum titled "Consideration and Implementation of Proven Safety Countermeasures." The memo and its attachments, which can be found at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/memo071008/, encourage development of policies to implement nine proven crash countermeasures and provide guidance on the conditions under which these countermeasures should be considered. The guidance also includes the results of the in-service evaluations, links to reference documents, and the names of FHWA contacts for each countermeasure.

The countermeasures address each of the four safety focus areas: roadway departure, intersections, pedestrians, and speed management. The measures include road safety audits, rumble strips, median barriers (including cable barriers), safety edges, roundabouts, turn lanes, yellow signal change intervals, pedestrian refuge areas, and walkways. Although some of these features have been in use for years, others are just now being deployed on a systemic basis. Each has traveled the path from innovation to proven and accepted technology and practice.

The needs of all road users — motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists, both young and old — must be considered in developing safety improvements. One of the Nation's challenges is to ensure that while implementing a safety improvement for one class of road user the safety of another is not compromised. Thus, rumble strips must be designed to allow safe use of road shoulders by bicyclists, and roundabouts must be designed to accommodate the expected level of pedestrian activity. The interdisciplinary approach of road safety audits can help greatly in this regard.

This issue of Public Roads features an article, "The Sound of Safety," that describes research in Arizona on centerline rumble strips, which may reduce lane departure crashes. Another article, "Bicyclist- and Pedestrian-Only Roundabouts," discusses facilities dedicated solely to nonmotorized traffic for reducing injuries and fatalities.

Just as these countermeasures have moved from innovations to accepted practice, others have taken their place in the product development and deployment continuum. Features currently being developed, tested, and evaluated include activated curve warning signs, variable speed limits, and cooperative intersection collision avoidance systems. Someday these safety improvements will be commonplace, as the U.S. transportation community strives continually to improve the safety of America's highways.

David A. Nicol

Director, Office of Safety Design

Federal Highway Administration

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