No matter where you live, road safety is an issue that should matter to you. It can affect you while you travel to work, when you go for a jog, or when your children play outside your home. The roads that surround us everywhere we go are necessary, but can also be quite dangerous.
Consider that traffic accidents are the ninth-leading cause of death worldwide and that up to 50 million people each year are injured or disabled due to crashes and other road safety hazards. In the US alone, there are about 110 traffic fatalities each day, so it’s an issue that touches the lives of more people all the time.
The problem is especially bad within urban environments, where cyclist and pedestrian fatalities have been on the rise, with no end to the carnage in sight. That doesn’t mean that cities all over the country have given up on making their roads safer – far from it. Instead, they’re turning to a new breed of devices known as speed cushions to try and increase road safety and decrease accidents and fatalities. Here’s how speed cushions are saving lives.
Diagnosing the Problem
The first step that cities and municipalities have taken in trying to improve road safety in their jurisdictions was to figure out what kinds of changes were likely to have the greatest positive impact on the problem. Almost invariably, they came up with a single major causal factor behind the growing problem: speeding. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than a quarter of traffic fatalities each year result from drivers ignoring speed limits.
Addressing the Problem
Knowing that excessive speed was a primary issue allowed cities to take specific action to target the cause of the problem. Now, it’s not as though law enforcement hadn’t ever tried to combat speeding before. Over the years, they’ve deployed an array of methods, from speed traps to radar speed indicator signs. One of the most popular methods, however, is to add speed bumps as a way of slowing traffic on smaller neighborhood roads. While those work, to some degree, they also introduced a new danger – they had a tendency to delay emergency vehicles responding to calls for help.
The Speed Cushion Advantage
Unlike speed bumps, speed cushions are purpose-built to slow down average traffic speed, without impeding emergency vehicles. They do so by including spacing that matches the wheel tracks of emergency vehicles (which tend to be different than passenger vehicles). That means the average car or SUV will be forced to slow down while passing over the raised section of the speed cushion, while emergency vehicles can proceed at full speed with no delay. That key difference means that speed cushions deter speeding without the dangerous side effect of harming emergency services.
In testing across multiple jurisdictions, speed cushions have been found to have the desired effect of slowing traffic to within acceptable limits, with little to no adverse effects. In that way, speed cushions achieve the dual purpose of decreasing the risk of accidents due to speeding and don’t cause any collateral damage, like traditional speed bumps always have. The bottom line is that they save lives on the roads where they’re installed, and allow emergency services to save additional lives elsewhere by not impeding their work.
Slow Down to Save Lives
At the end of the day, speed cushions are just one of an array of tools that city planners and police departments can use to make roads safer. They are, however, and incredibly important one. They directly address the biggest issue that makes roads unsafe to begin with, and work twenty-four hours a day doing it. In a world where road fatalities are a fact of life, speed cushions do more than their part to decrease the death toll and save lives – and that’s a good thing, no matter how you look at it.