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141,274 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Toll plazas, too often the scene of crashes, should have design standards, safety board says
18 April 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) - The most dangerous place on the highway is the toll plaza, say federal safety investigators who are urging changes to reduce accidents like one that claimed eight lives in Illinois.

Though highway safety issues such as drunken driving, seat belt use and air bag deployment are debated, studied and regulated, toll plaza safety has been virtually ignored.

"Toll plazas have been designed for 50 years without national design standards," Dan Walsh, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a Tuesday hearing on the Illinois crash.

More toll plazas are being built and old ones are being retrofitted for electronic toll collection, he said.

"The need for standards is paramount," Walsh said.

The NTSB recommended Tuesday that federal highway officials develop design standards to reduce the number of crashes at toll plazas. Those may include guidelines on signs, pavement markings, lane width or rumble strips.

The recommendations resulted from the investigation of a chain-reaction crash on Oct. 1, 2003, that killed eight people near Hampshire, Ill.

A speeding Freightliner tractor-trailer slammed into the back of a small bus that had nearly stopped at an interstate toll plaza about 50 miles west of Chicago.

The Freightliner slammed into the bus, pushing it into another truck and causing a five-vehicle pileup. Killed in the crash were eight of the 22 passengers in the bus, which carried a group returning from a garden tour.

The safety board blamed the inattentive Freightliner driver.

Investigators also said that traditional toll booths, where drivers pay attendants or throw money into an automatic coin machine, increase the danger of rear-end collisions because drivers must stop suddenly.

NTSB investigators said:

--49 percent of all interstate accidents in Illinois are at toll plazas, and three times as many people die in them as in accidents on the road itself.

--30 percent of all accidents on the Pennsylvania toll highway system happen at toll plazas.

--38 percent of all crashes on New Jersey toll highways are toll plaza accidents.

Introducing electronic toll collection lanes, though, can make the problem worse.

Mohamed Abdel-Aty, associate professor at Central Florida University's department of civil and environmental engineering, studied the Orlando-Orange County Expressway system in Florida.

Between January 1994 and June 1997, 31.6 percent of total crashes occurred at the 10 main toll plazas and 46.3 percent at the 38 toll booth ramps, Abdel-Aty found.

Introducing E-PASS electronic toll collection lanes beside the regular lanes increased the accident rate at the busy Holland-East Mainline Plaza, he found.

"It's the mixture of E-PASS lanes and other lanes -- the confusion from nonfamiliar drivers -- that's causing most of the rear-end collisions," Abdel-Aty said.

One key to preventing crashes at toll booths, he said, is separating drivers who have to stop from those who don't. Drivers also need signs and lane markings that give them enough time to get into the proper lane, he said.

The Federal Highway Administration is expected to finish a study on best practices for toll plazas this summer, NTSB investigators said.

Connecticut abolished all of its toll booths in 1989 after a crash six years earlier when a tractor-trailer rig plowed into cars at the Stratford toll plaza, killing seven and injuring many more.

"That got the legislature saying, 'We've hated these things for years,'" said Connecticut transportation department spokesman Chris Cooper. "Clearly we felt there was a safety issue."

The state, though, is considering reinstating tolls as a way of raising money for new roads and easing congestion. Connecticut has applied for federal money to study a concept in which vehicles with electronic toll cards would slow slightly as they pass under an overhead transponder system. A cash lane would be separate from the flow of traffic.

"It would be like getting off at a rest stop," Cooper said.

Thirty states have toll facilities and 20 have none, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

On the Net:
National Transportation Safety Board:

3,805 Posts
Just bring in electronic tolling. And not the silly kind where they just refit toll plazas with sensors but still have to make everyone slow down, since the technology has shown here that they can work with cars at any speed.

2,078 Posts
Yes, e-tags for tolling on motorways are much more convenient than the old stop-and-pay tollbooth. The technology is advanced enough so keep the potential problems (technical) with the tags to a minimum.

I remember there was an incident a few years ago where a vehicle coming off of the Gateway Bridge in Brisbane into the toll plaza crashed into one of the booths and killed a person who was working in it. It's not only dangerous for drivers if poorly layed out, but also the people working in the area.

391 Posts

Technology already widely used by American motorists is the basis for a low-cost safety warning system that would inform drivers of highway hazards such as traffic accidents, approaching emergency vehicles, construction delays or visibility problems.

With support from a consortium of consumer electronics companies, researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have developed a transmitter and messaging system capable of sending a wide range of emergency warnings to motorists using advanced radar detectors. The Safety Warning System®will also provide a general warning to the estimated 20 million drivers using older radar detectors not capable of displaying text messages. An SWS transmitter on the side of a highway transmits a warning to a dash-mounted advanced radar detector.

"Intelligent transportation systems planned for the future will improve highway safety by providing drivers with information about the hazards ahead of them, but it's going to be years before such systems are implemented," said Gene Greneker, a principal research associate in the Sensors and Electromagnetic Applications Laboratory at GTRI. "The Safety Warning System will provide a sophisticated warning capability today and serve as a stepping-stone to the systems of the future."

The key to development of the system was agreement by four leading radar detector manufacturers to use a common technique for sending emergency information and a standard set of warning messages compatible with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration guidelines.

The new generation of "smart" radar detectors includes a built-in liquid crystal display capable of displaying up to 64 characters. When such a detector receives a safety message, it first sounds a special tone to alert the driver before displaying the message. A second message can also be sent and displayed with the first, so the system could both warn of a hazard and tell the driver of a reduced speed limit.

Because the transmitter also sends out microwave signals on the K band, drivers using older radar detectors would still be alerted to a traffic hazard, though they could not be told the specific nature of it.

The consortium of electronics companies, known as RADAR, has filed a patent application to protect the technology.

Transmitters would be located on police and other emergency vehicles, and on construction equipment, bridges, existing overhead sign warning systems and other fixed sites. Portable transmitters could also be moved to locations wherever needed.

"Every police car one day will have one of these," Greneker predicted. "When the police officer turns on the blue lights or siren to begin a pursuit or respond to an emergency, the transmitter would send out a message alerting motorists. At an accident site, the officer would use the transmitter to warn oncoming cars."

GTRI has built and tested one transmitter system, and will be building others as part of larger-scale testing. RADAR, which includes manufacturers B.E.L.-Tronics, Ltd.; Sanyo Technica USA, Inc., Uniden America Corporation and Whistler Corporation, is pursuing efforts to commercialize the transmitter system. Researcher Gene Greneker with circuit board used in the Safety Warning System.

Since 1991, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allowed use of unattended radar transmitters to trigger radar detectors and thereby warn drivers of hazards ranging from highway construction zones to road maintenance. Though these "drone" systems cannot broadcast specific warnings, they have been considered useful for improving highway safety.

"At least two studies have shown that drone transmitters capable of setting off the current generation of radar detectors are effective at slowing traffic in construction zones," said Janice Lee, president of RADAR. "We believe this technology has much untapped potential. Enhanced transmitters, when coupled with 'smart' radar detectors, will let the driver differentiate between various types of road hazards."

The transmitter system developed by Greneker, Bruce Warren and with help from the engineering staffs of each of the participating industry members, broadcasts the safety warning message using a binary encoded modulation technique that is received and displayed by the new K-band detectors.

Because the 64 standard warning messages are preprogrammed and stored in the detector's memory, the simple code is all the receiver needs to determine which message to display. The seven-bit code can be repeated as often as ten times a second, boosting reliability.

"You don't have to transmit every letter of the message, so there is plenty of opportunity to receive the warning," Greneker noted.

Customized warning messages can also be sent using a keyboard and simple computer-based menu system. Messages on unattended systems could be changed remotely through a dial-up system. Programming functions allow the system to broadcast during certain times of the day, to operate only when vehicles are approaching, or to turn themselves on only after sensing a hazard such as a bridge failure or low visibility.

RADAR has petitioned the FCC to allow higher transmitting power that would increase the range of the system and enhance the ability of moving emergency vehicles to broadcast warnings. With present power levels, the system will provide a warning at least one mile ahead of the highway hazard.

Greneker believes the technology developed for radar detectors could also be applied to other wireless communication needs, expanding the market for both transmitter and receiver manufacturers.

17,534 Posts
In summer and winter holidays accidents is frequent on French motorways.
Also after midnight on Parisian freeways and motorways because of the illegal races.
But the first is more common :) .

Enlightened user
5,782 Posts
I've never seen an accident happen IN a I'm afraid not.
We've never seen an acident in a highway?!?
Where do you live?! Have you ever actually rode a highway??

Unfortunatly accidents are quite comon in all type's of roads, all over the world. Highways are safer roads, but also have much traffic, so they are prone to accidents too.

One of the most recent accidents on a motorway I've seen was this summer, on the French A9, getting to the Spanish border. 2 cars collided andI think at least one was uppside down, on the right lane. A truck had stoped on the right lane to give the smashed cars some proteccion and for what I could see there injured victims (at least not anything serious), which was very good! :)

melior de cinere surgo
6,827 Posts
In this case, the highway had a big accident!

(under construction Highway Catania-Siracusa, Italy, 2006)

3,985 Posts
^^Now that could be seen as an accident IN a highway;) Yes, pun intended.

We get crashes on our highways all the time. In fact I think that a couple of years ago, it came out that more people died on the Pacific Highway between Brisbane and Sydney each year than are killed by murder across all of Australia. Much of the highway has been upgraded since, but the road toll is still quite high. On the M1 which is the main highway through the Gold Coast and forms a part of the Pacific Highway, there are often crashes particularly on a 2+2 lane section between Nerang and Mudgeeraba. there are rarely any deaths, but traffic delays and congestion is terrible.

Actually I do remember last year a truck was driving towards Brisbane just before the afternoon peak hour on the M1 on the 4+4 lane section and for some reason lost control and swerved across the median strip and into the oncoming traffic. There was something like 10 cars involved. 5 of 8 lanes of traffic closed including all south-bound traffic, preventing at least 50,000 commuters from getting home and causing a traffic jam for 35Km.

1,613 Posts
I've seen some accidents on highway before. That caused a big traffic backup for miles away.

One of the accident that I saw a unsecured load come off the truck and the Honda civic tried to avoid it but lost control of the car and hit the median barrier and killed the local coffee shop owner. It was a metal shelf that came off the truck. The driver of the unsecured load was fined and jailtime, it isn't enough.

I didn't actually see it happen, but after it happened.

141,274 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Living Near Highways Damage Children's Lungs - Study

Living near a highway damages children's lungs: study

PARIS, Jan 26, 2007 (AFP) - What stroller-pushing mothers negotiating urban traffic jams have long suspected, a new study shows, is true: children living near major motorways run a greater risk of growing up with damaged lungs.

The link between air pollution and respiratory ailments is well established, but the eight-year study of more than 3,600 children in Los Angeles provides compelling evidence, for the first time, that small distances can make a huge difference when it comes to measuring the health hazards of vehicle exhaust.

Ten-year olds growing to adulthood within 500 meters (yards) of a freeway were far more likely to have stunted lung development than their cohorts living an additional 1000 meters distant, a team of American researchers led by W. James Gauderman of the University of Southern California conclude in a paper published Thursday in the British journal The Lancet.

"The study points to a several-fold increase (between groups) in the number of children showing substantial reduction in lung function," Dr. Thomas Sandstrom, a professor in the Department of Respiratory Medicine at the University Hospital in Umea, Sweden, commented by phone.

"What is worrisome is the heightened risk of lung disease" ranging from increased rates of asthma to more serious, potentially fatal illnesses, added Sandstom, who also wrote a commentary on the study in Lancet.

The close proximity to vehicle exhaust does not only affect those with frail lungs, the scientists said.

"Otherwise-healthy children who were non-asthmatic and non-smokers also experienced a significant decrease in lung function from traffic pollution," said Gauderman.

The study's findings also raise troubling questions about what the authors call "environmental equity" because -- even within a single community -- some children are at higher risk than others.

"The present regulatory emphasis on regional air quality might need to be modified to include considerations of local variation to air pollution," it suggests.

The study was based on the yearly testing of 3,677 children, from 12 Los Angeles communities, over an eight-year period beginning from the age of ten. Lung function was measured by seeing how much air each child could exhale -- and how quickly -- after taking a deep breath, along with other tests.

The children were divided into three groups depending on how close they lived to a freeway, as multi-lane expressways are called in California: less than 500 meters, between 500 and 1000 meters, and between 1000 and 1500 meters.

Researchers adjusted the results for other variables that could have influenced lung performance, such as smoking or asthma, as well as the weight, height and body-mass index of each child.

Also factored out were broader variations in air quality, but "even in an area with low regional pollution, children living near a major roadway are a increased risk of health effects."

Several elements in vehicle exhaust can damage lung tissue, but the most harmful are nanoparticles with organic hydrocarbon components on the surface, present in far higher concentrations near freeways.

"The study suggests that there may be something in particular about primary emissions -- fresh emissions -- that are particularly dangerous" as compared to settled pollution, said Sandstrom.

"We don't know enough about the toxic effect of primary traffic emissions," he said, adding that this paper could influence deliberations currently underway in the European Union on funding priorities for research on pollution.

Also of special interest to Europeans is the study's conclusion that diesel fuel -- far more common in Europe than the United States -- is especially hazardous because of its high concentration of particulate-matter.
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