Safe Routes Scoop

Helping to Tame Multi-Lane Crossings

 

It is no secret that traveling along New Jersey’s roadways can sometimes offer a stressful, heart racing experience. While motorists can often be heard complaining about traffic, construction, and especially the behavior of other drivers, few seem to realize how intimidating it can be for pedestrians who have to walk along and cross these very same roads. The most dangerous places for people to walk are wide, high-speed roads designed to move as many cars as fast as possible. In fact, according to a 2010 report conducted by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, more than 60 percent of our region’s pedestrian fatalities occur on multilane thoroughfares described by transportation engineers as arterials. Commonly found throughout New Jersey, these arterials typically have at least two lanes in each direction and accommodate prevailing travel speeds of 40 mph or greater (1).

 

Dangerous Crossings

Why are these types of roadways such a challenge to cross? Overall, the street crossing experience is determined by how pedestrians and motorists are influenced by a variety of factors, including both speed and crossing distance. With regard to speed, traveling at a slower rate allows a motorist more time to see, react, and stop for a pedestrian compared to a motorist driving fast. Pedestrians struck at speeds of 40 mph or greater have a dismal 15 percent chance of survival. In

contrast, pedestrians hit by cars traveling at 30 mph have a 45 percent chance of surviving the collision (2).

 

When it comes to crossing the street, generally, the fewer lanes and distance needed to cross, the better the situation for the pedestrian. With a shorter distance to cross, narrower roads help reduce the amount of exposure a pedestrian experiences and generally reduces the likelihood of a collision. Long crossing distances also place pedestrians at an increased risk for a multiple-threat crash. A multiple-threat pedestrian crash is a crash that occurs when a motor vehicle in one lane stops for a pedestrian, providing a visual screen to the motorist in the adjacent lane. Seeing the initial motorist stop, the pedestrian begins to cross. Having not realized why the initial motorist has stopped, the motorist in the adjacent lane continues to move and hits the pedestrian. This type of collision, where the pedestrian is hit in the second, third or fourth lane is common on multilane roads and typically results in a more serious collision due to a higher impact speed.

 

Ideas for a Better Walking Environment

To make walking safer and more appealing, we need to embrace strategies that reduce crossing distance, reduce speed, and make pedestrians more visible. While lowering posted speed limits seems

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