The Transportation Safety Center (TSC) was funded for implementation in 2014 to provide technical assistance to local agencies throughout Florida: identify road safety problems and develop projects eligible for federal funding.
There were two phases in the TSC project: Phase 1 – create a template on conducting a safety study for any team to use in a given location. Phase 2 – implement the program in a given county using the template from Phase 1. Phase 1’s template was completed last year, consisting of off-site studies of crash spots, researching crash histories and any upcoming road projects, then on-site reviews to identify other factors that may not be available in crash reports. Hendry County was chosen as the first county to implement the process under Phase 2. Teams for this first endeavor were formed consisting of UFTI faculty and graduate students, who traveled to the site in late 2014.
“Being able to work on the rural county projects and being able to actually go into the field to meet face to face with the small county personnel is a side you don’t see doing research,” said Phillip Haas, a doctoral student who has since graduated. “Actually walking the road, seeing in person what it looks like changes the way you see the numbers when you see them on the computer screen.”
UFTI faculty Dr. Siva Srinivasan and Dr. Ilir Bejleri, project co-PIs, were instrumental to the field studies, using “Signal 4” software to pull crash data directly from Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles databases for the most up-to-date information. Having all that data enabled the team members to find patterns among the crash locations. In Hendry County’s instance, the patterns mainly involved lane departures, with much difficulty in recovery – over half of the fatalities in the study area involved vehicles that entered a canal.
Recommendations were presented to the county (an excerpt is below) and improvements are being made to the offsite screening review techniques to make this tool even more effective. Our Florida roads are in good hands with UFTI at the helm, and look forward to integrating research with practice to make traveling in our state safer.
Excerpt from March 2015 Hendry County Report:
The frequency of lane departure crashes in the study area, especially at night, suggests that upgraded lane markings are needed. All three roads in the study area are marked with centerline and edge markings, but in most areas the markings are worn and need to be refreshed. Raised pavement markers were originally installed along the centerline and along the edge markings of the curves, but many are now missing or damaged.
Canals or deep ditches are common along the rights of way throughout the study area. Most canals are located outside of, but adjacent to, the road rights of way. The canal banks are steep and errant vehicles that get beyond the edge of the right of way may have little chance of recovering. Over half of the fatalities in the study area involved vehicles that entered a canal. In addition to upgrading the pavement markings to include audible/vibratory edge lines, shoulder paving and guardrail (or cable barrier) along the canals, including culvert crossings were considered to reduce severe off-road crashes in the tangent sections.
Rogers Road intersection:
Countermeasures for Rogers Road intersection:
- Upgrade signs and pavement markings; pave shoulders (included in recommendations for all major curves).
- Install advanced warning beacons on southbound and eastbound approaches to the curve.
- Install luminaires. Illumination of the area around a curve will alert the driver well in advance that there is a change in the features of the road and will provide positive assistance in helping identify the changes in the configuration. This is a critical feature for this location since most of the crashes occur at night. (Electrical service appears to be available at this location.) If luminaires cannot be added to existing poles, consider placing any additional poles along the inside of the curve.
- Install guardrail, cable, or other positive barrier to redirect southbound vehicles that fail to negotiate the curve to prevent them from entering the canal.