Maybe we’ll just have to slow down?
With around 40,000 people dying in car accidents on American roads every year, something isn’t working, John Lower, a transportation engineer in California, told me. They’re calling instead for a data-driven system that reflects the actual traffic using sensor technology. In many cases, this will force us to drive slower.
Lower has spent decades as a city transportation manager, and now works at Iteris, an analytics company. He believes it’s time to reinvent the way we implement speed limits. “The way it works now, there are higher-than-expected crash rates along the system,” he said.
Lower’s solution is in line with Vision Zero, a network of traffic safety advocates he is part of, who want to use more recent data and technology to inform our speed limits. (The network is funded by entities including Kaiser Permanente, a health insurance company)
In an ideal scenario, Lower said, we would be using smart sensors to collect the information from vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians to understand traffic flows. (A quick spin around the internet reveals multiple sensors are already on the market like this, including this one from Urbiotica and another from SMATS.) This data would then be analyzed to set speed limits based on the traffic flow, and the presence of the most vulnerable vehicles (bicycles) and people on the roads.
“Every traffic signal has to have some form of detection,” Lower added.