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Low-Cost Systematic Safety Countermeasures

Overview


This page provides guidance and fact sheets on the use of research-proven low-cost safety countermeasures that can be deployed on a systematic basic. Through the collective efforts of ODOT's Traffic Operations Leadership Team (TOLT) and Highway Safety Engineering Committee (HSEC), many of these safety countermeasures are thoroughly integrated into the options the ODOT Regions consider as they address their highway safety issues in an effort to reduce fatal and serious injury crashes throughout Oregon.

The implementation of these countermeasures are directly linked to other ODOT highway safety initiatives such as the Roadway Departure, Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety​ and Intersection Safety Action Plans​. These countermeasures support ODOT's goal of reducing fatal and serious injury crashes across the State with a secondary benefit of reducing lower severity crashes such as property damage only (PDO) and minor injury crashes as well.
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Systemic vs. Systematic

The traditional approach to highway safety is to identify locations with a higher than expected number of crashes and then diagnose the location for appropriate countermeasures.  This site analysis approach (or hot spot) has been a successful practice around the nation.  A new approach has since emerged, first called “systematic”, where DOT’s initiate programs to deploy widespread low-cost cost-effective countermeasures.  In an ideal world these would be deployed everywhere, but because of limited staff and budgets this might not be the preferred method.  In the real world of limited budgets, DOT’s cannot afford to apply treatment equally at all locations except for where these applications have extremely low cost and are effective.

In most cases, DOT’s have chosen to employ low cost countermeasures where they are the most effective, locations where there are crashes targeted by the countermeasures.  This is now referred to as “systemic”.  Previous studies in this area may have referred to this as “systematic”, so understandably there can be confusion about what is “systematic” and what is “systemic”.  To further add to the confusion, some research now refers to approaches that identify risk factors for targeted crashes as “systemic”.  For now, Oregon DOT is using the term systematic and systemic virtually synonymously.

The systemic (or systematic) approach, as it has been used at Oregon DOT, refers to using analytical techniques to identify locations (or corridors) that either display a higher than expected number of target crashes or high risk roadway characteristics for the target crashes (i.e., high speeds, numbers of lane, absence of a median).  This approach may identify locations or corridors that may not typically be identified through a traditional hot spot analyses.  This approach compliments the traditional approach by analyzing target crash types that typically result in severe crashes and may be widely distributed over the system, and thus not show up in a traditional hot spot approach.
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Update Curve Warning Signs

 
The 2009 Edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices​ includes new Standards and Guidance for when hoizontal alignment signs such as curve warning signs and chevrons should be installed along a highway. Oregon has long recognized the connection between effective curve signing and reductions in roadway departure crashes. Upgrading curve warning signs systematically across a highway corridor or regionally is a proven method of reducing roadway departure crashes.


   Photo courtesy of KYTC
 
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Rumble strips are a proven safety countermeasure for reducing fatal and serious injury roadway depature crashes. They can be installed on the shoulder to reduce run-off-road crashes and/or on the centerline to prevent head-on and sideswipe meeting crashes. Special design considerations need to be taken into account for highways with significant volumes of recreational and commuting bicycle traffic. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Photo courtesy of FHWA​
 
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Basic Intersection Upgrades


There are numerous stop controlled intersections on minor road approaches to state highways, county arterials, and city streets in Oregon. Many of these intersections are in isolated, rural locations.  
 
 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
Photo courtesy of FHWA  
 

A series of low-cost safety countermeasures can be systematically deployed at intersections with higher volume minor road approaches. Some of these countermeasures include installing short splitter islands, doubling the amount of stop and warning signs approaching and at the intersection, and installing stop beacons above the stop signs. 
 
Basic Intersection Upgrades Fact Sheet

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Many transportation professionals associate safety improvements at signalized intersections as high cost improvements. However there are several low-cost safety countermeasures that can significantly reduce fatal and serious injury crashes. Some of these include reflectorized backplates, adding a signal head per lane on multilane arterials, and changes to signal phasing.

 
 
 

 
Photo courtesy of FHWA
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Pedestrian Enhancements


Pedestrian/vehicle crashes are a concern because pedestrians are likely to experience moderate to serious injuries in these types of crashes. Higher speed pedestrian/vehicle crashes often result in pedestrian fatalities. Some possible countermeasures include geometric treatments such as curb extensions/bulb-outs, median refuge islands, and operational improvements such active pedestrian warning devices.

Pedestrian Enhancements Fact Sheet
 
 
Photo courtesy of FHWA​

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Bicycle Enhancements


Oregon is one of the most "bike friendly" places in the U.S. The City of Portland has the highest bicycle commuting rate of any major U.S. city. As bicycle volumes continue to increase on our highways, conflicts between motor vehicles and bicycles also increase. Some possible countermeasures include innovative treatments that may require experimental approval by FHWA.

Bicycle Enhancements Fact Sheet 
 
 

   Photo courtesy of NACTO
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Road Diets

 
Road diets have the ability to generate benefits for all modes of transportation, not just bicycles and pedestrians. In a traditional 4-to-3 road diet, removing the left turns from the travel lane will often reduce the number of crashes caused by stoppages in the travel lane. It also reduces the number of lanes the left turning vehicle must cross while making the turn.
 
 
Photo courtesy of FHWA​
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