(history as of 11/2/2011 5:33:03 PM)
Toward Zero Deaths
Not a Pipe Dream
by Dave Brown
Even most traffic safety professionals might feel that TZD is just a pipe dream. Hopefully when you read this article you will begin to see that this is not the case. The key to TZD is not exclusively in the driver, although efforts must continue to alter driver behavior in order, for example, to get back all that we have lost from the recent increases in fatalities caused cell phone use and texting while driving.
The real promise for absolute zero deaths is in technolgy. An excellent example of a TZD culture change is in the acceptance of seatbelts and airbags. The technology for airbags was developed in the early 1970s, but it did not become predominant until the early 1990s. Today there is effectively no objection to airbags, and they are taken for granted by most drivers. Seatbelt laws are also generally accepted by society. This is an example of the amount of time it takes to evolve the acceptance of a given technology.
Intelligent Vehicle and Highway Systems (IVHS) have also been under research and prototyping for decades. Traffic safety would seem to be a secondary consideration in bringing about their acceptance. Do you get angry when you see a crash? Most drivers feel concern and sadness for those affected, but it is not something that people typically get angry about.
How about traffic congestion? ... getting held up for what seems to be hours on an Interstate only to find that there is no apparent reason for it? ... how about someone using a cell phone in the left lane of the Interstate ten miles per hour under the speed limit? Now these are things that people get mad about, and as a result, they are willing to do something about them. Do you realize that all of these things can be controlled by technology?
Let's think outside the box for just a minute. The ultimate: several north-south and east-west roadways that are dedicated to high speed motor vehicle travel in speeds in excess of 100 MPH. Accessible only by vehicles that are equiped with the technology to support travel at these speeds that is as safe as air travel. These vehicles are equipped with radar and communication systems that allow them to interact with the other vehicles on these dedicated roadways.
Entrances to (exits from) these dedicated roadways are at least ten miles apart, or perhaps only at major cities. When you enter the roadway you relinquish your speed control and perhaps some other navigation capabilities. Your speed is restricted to about 70 MPH until you get into the vicinity of the platoon that is closest to going where you want to go. Once that platoon approaches you join it (perhaps automatically) by ramping up your speed or perhaps the platoon will decrease its speed to allow vehicles to join. However, once connected the platoon ramps up to 100 MPH or so. The front vehicle is driven by a professional extremely skilled and trained person, and there is also a co-driver just as on an aircraft. While the speeds are in excess of 100 MPH, the efficiency obtained is much greater than can be obtained by vehicles today traveling at 55 MPH, due to the reduced wind friction that results from the close proximity of the vehicles within the platoon.
Cell phone use? No problem. In fact, if the driver wants to take a nap, no problem. The destination is set and the driver will be warned when disengagement from the platoon is required. The platoon will slow (if necessary) to allow vehicles to depart, and all vehicles that are not exiting will be rejoined to the platoon as it resumes its speed.
To those who think this is impossible, all of the technology that is necessary for the above scenario has been developed -- it just has not be tested and refined at this point. But if your are still skeptical, then recall that in 1826 when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone that people thought he was crazy. Of what use is it to speak to someone in another room through such a noisy devise ... just raise your voice and yell. Of course, if our 26 year old inventor had tried to reason with his critics and explain to them that wires could be strung all over the country and around the world, they would have laughed him to scorn. How? Cutting down millions of trees and creating something called telephone poles. They would rot. Creosote? What's that?
Yes, there are many things that stand in the way of the dedicated road scenario, not the least of which is that the whole scenario might not be the ideal way to accomplish the goal of ultimate safety through TZD. But the systems above can evolve fairly easily starting with dedicated lanes that enable platoons to move significantly faster than the other traffic flow, thus creating the demand by the general public to obtain the vehicles that can join these platoons. This in turn will stimulate the auto manufacturers to create even smarter vehicles, as well as the demand of governments to create more intelligent roadways. It must all work together for continuous improvement forever.
As we talk of a culture change in making even one fatality unacceptable to society, let us realize that it must go beyond what has traditionally been considered safe driving and safe roadways. We must all be looking forward to a time when traffic fatalities become a thing of the past because the technology has been developed to absolutely prevent them. Like air bags and other vehicle countermeasures, these are evolving now and will, over the next few decades, demonstrate that traffic fatalities can truly become a thing of the past. Our hope is that it will not take 150 years like the telephone did, but even if it does, moving toward that TZD goal will save many lives along the way.
See the article on electric cars obtaining their power from the roadway. This is not a dream -- it has been accomplished experimentally. Also, there is promise in vehicle radar systems. For a review of automated highway systems (AHS), click here -- but remember, this review is over ten years old!
See articles to the right; also from AASHTO:
"Toward Zero Deaths: a National Strategy on Highway Safety" resource page.
"Toward Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety will be a data-driven effort focusing on identifying and creating opportunities for changing American culture as it relates to highway safety. The effort will also focus on developing strong leadership and champions in the organizations that can directly impact highway safety through engineering, enforcement, education, emergency medical service (EMS), policy, public health, communications, and other efforts. The national strategy will be utilized as a guide and framework by safety stakeholder organizations to enhance current national, state and local safety planning and implementation efforts. The intent is to develop a mechanism for bringing together a wider range of highway safety stakeholders to work toward institutional and cultural changes." -- FHWA Toward Zero Deaths web page link to the right.
For more detailed information, see the articles and links related to TZD white papers to the right.
Note other links to the right:
- FHWA Toward Zero Deaths Page
- FHWA Safety Homepage
- FHWA MUTCD Homepage
- National Traffic & Road Closure Information
- FHWA Roadside Hardware Policy & Guidance
- Excerpts of our annual performance plan
- Information about our peer to peer program
- Information regarding our Every Day Counts Initiative with emphasis on the safety edge
- Information related to speed management
- Information related to integrating safety in planning
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