The safety features of modern roadways | Allen and Allen

The safety features of modern roadways

Over the past few decades, advances in design and technology have created vehicles that are much safer than their older counterparts. Improved crash engineering, enhanced protective features, and new safety technologies all provide the modern car with a distinct advantage when it comes to protecting its occupants.

van driving down the road

But did you know that modern roads can also be much safer? As with cars, advances in technology and understanding of how and why crashes happen have enabled engineers to build safety improvements directly into the roads themselves, helping every driver stay as safe as possible.

What safety features have been added to U.S. roads?

The Safety Edge

The “Safety Edge,” or “Safety Shoe,” is an industry term referring to a 30-degree angle sloping down from an asphalt roadway.

Traditional road building methods created sharp drop-offs where the paved section ended. If a driver drifts their vehicle off such an edge, the wheel suddenly drops, causing the driver to jerk and swerve the vehicle further off the road.

safety edge

Photo credit: Federal Highway Administration

Equally concerning, the sharp drop-off makes it difficult for a tire to climb back onto the roadway. Often, a driver who drifts off the street will overcorrect while trying to get their wheels back on the road, causing the car to shoot into another travel lane. Old-fashioned drop-offs on the edge of asphalt roadways create a dangerous situation for drivers.

Modern construction practices call for an asphalt edge to be laid at a 30-degree angle. Studies have shown that 30 degrees provide a driver with a sufficient warning that they are drifting, while allowing the tire to maintain continuous traction. This allows the vehicle to correct its drift, rather than suddenly lurch across the lane. This simple change during the road construction process, requiring very little in the way of effort or extra material, creates a substantially safer roadway.

Click here to see a Michigan Department of Transportation video about the virtues of the Safety Edge, as well as an example of the equipment that allows them to be created quickly and easily.

reflective borders on street lights

Photo credit: Nevada Department of Transportation

Retroreflective borders

It is significantly more dangerous to drive at night than during the day. Driver inattention, fatigue, and the general lack of visibility all contribute to the high prevalence of nighttime crashes. A roadway’s safety features become even more important at night, when they are the hardest to see.

Retroreflective lighting lights up the borders of traffic lights and signs, making them significantly easier to see at night. Modern designs are extremely bright, drawing the eye from far away and increasing the effectiveness of safety equipment.

pedestrian edian with button and sign

Medians and pedestrian islands

Pedestrian crashes are some of the most dangerous incidents on the roadway, accounting for roughly 12% of all traffic-related fatalities. Engineers have found that by creating roads with raised medians and strategic pedestrian islands, these fatalities can be greatly reduced.

Raised medians provide pedestrians with greater separation from traffic, as well as providing a warning and barrier for when drivers are going off the road. Pedestrian islands also provide a safe place to stand, and prevent pedestrians from having to hurry across too many lanes of traffic during a single light cycle. This way they aren’t ending up stranded in the middle of a dangerous roadway.

Roadways and highways may seem simple, but they are actually complex pieces of interconnected engineering. Deliberate planning and care can create safer roadways, which protect the drivers and pedestrians that use them.

If you have been injured in a car crash or pedestrian crash due to a negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Allen & Allen today for a free consultation, at 866-388-1307.