Roadway Safety: Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic – Part 2 of 2

Posted by on Sep 15, 2020 in Road Safety, Safety, Transportation, Uncategorized | No Comments

The world looks different today than it did yesterday. As we face the unknown of the coronavirus, Sain Associates will continue to bring weekly content to the blog. We find comfort in providing uplifting news but also bringing a sense of routine while we navigate through this fluid environment.

By: Luana Broshears, PhD, PE, RSP2i

In last week’s blog, we looked at several factors that may be contributing to an increase in fatality rates per miles driven since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It’s important to think about what we can do to reduce the risk of death or serious injury in road crashes.

How can safety professionals address the “new normal” conditions?

  • Road safety strategies related to speed management need special attention now. High-level policy decisions including automated speed enforcement and variable speed limit, for example, can help reduce road fatalities. Further, traffic calming is always a good idea to reduce travel speeds.
  • The level of enforcement of drinking and driving laws has a direct effect on impaired driving. Increasing drivers’ perception of the risk of being detected is an effective way of deterring drinking and driving.
  • There is an opportunity to rethink our streets by closing or rearranging road segments to prioritize pedestrians and bicyclists. The World Economic Forum discusses the “Slow Streets” movement, which implements road closures to allow people to explore their communities through walking, jogging, biking and even wheelchair rolling.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic brings an opportunity to discuss transportation equity as we rethink our strategies. The shift from transit trips to walking and bicycle trips affects lower-income communities the most, as there may not be other transportation options available for them. Those communities already suffer from poorer traffic safety conditions, as a study in the US shows: within metro areas, low-income census tracts record pedestrian fatality rates approximately twice that of more affluent neighborhoods. More resources need to be shifted to underserved communities.

Roadway Injuries and Fatalities are a Pandemic on its Own

Roadway severe injuries and fatalities are a public health issue. Roadway crashes are the eighth leading cause of death globally and the leading cause of death among young people ages 15-29 years. The WHO has an effort dedicated to reducing road fatalities and the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) even has a “vaccine” for roads. Not only is it important to evaluate the COVID-19 pandemic effects on traffic safety, but we also need to address road serious injuries and fatalities as a pandemic on its own. Now is a good time to discuss how important it is to save lives and ensure we can apply our lessons learned from dealing with the COVID-19 crisis to traffic safety efforts.

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