>“Double double” yellow lines for improved road safety!

When it comes to reducing road deaths and injuries in New Brunswick, perhaps we should be inspired by Voltaire to avoid letting “the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Most serious collisions on our roads result from a combination of problems with road conditions, human factors, technology, and chance. While public safety campaigns and legislation try to effect many of the human factors by highlighting the dangers of distracted driving, intoxication (a subject for another day), and speed; and car manufacturers continue to improve vehicle safety; there is strong evidence that as a society, through improved regulations, we can also save lives by simple changes to road conditions and layout.

According to the world report on road traffic injury prevention, the Dutch policy of sustainable safety divides roads into one of three types according to their function, and then sets speed limits and driving conditions accordingly. These categories are Flow Roads; Distributor Roads; and Residential Roads. For Residential Roads, the needs of non-motorized users take priority, with the use of sidewalks, cycle lanes, crosswalks and slow speed limits. Distributor Roads carry traffic to and from large urban districts, and give equal importance to motorized and non-motorized local traffic, but separate users wherever possible, with variable speed limits. Flow Roads, or arterial roads and highways, are designed to allow through-traffic to go from the place of departure to the destination without interruption. Speed limits are higher, and there should be complete separation of traffic streams. It is on this last point that we in New Brunswick often fail.

While we are fortunate to have many kilometres of twinned highways, we also have several medium volume undivided Arterial Highways such as routes 7 and 11, to name two. And this is where we should consider Voltaire’s observation. We cannot afford to twin all our arterial roads, however we can afford to modify high-risk areas to minimize the chances of major collisions occurring.

If roads did not exist, and we were to ask an engineer to design a safe road for two-way traffic, how likely is it that they would deliberately place oncoming traffic,a mixture of family vehicles and large commercial trucks, heading towards each other at combined speeds of over 200kph separated only by a thin yellow line, encouraging, in places, faster traffic to move into the apposing lane, directly facing oncoming traffic, to pass slower vehicles? Unlikely! So now that we know better, with strong evidence to back up what is essentially good common sense, can we not introduce some simple low cost measures to improve safety?

 

We saw how the government acted quickly to enact “Ellen’s Law” legislating a minimum passing distance of one metre for cars passing cyclists. Should we not consider similar principles for oncoming traffic – perhaps widening the central yellow line to a one metre wide “painted barrier” on fast arterial roads? Kind of like a “double double” yellow line! The addition of central rumble strips to such a widened median, and the erection of central median barriers in high risk areas, with safe passing zones, are all much lower cost interventions than twinning every kilometer of our road network – the perfect solution that will never happen, yet the idea of which stops us implementing other solutions that could save lives. Let’s stop the perfect becoming the enemy of the good when it comes to road safety.