The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) received a 2023 National Roadway Safety Award for demonstrating how increasing pavement friction helps motorists stop more quickly and retain better control at high-speed intersections.
As part of a pilot project started in 2020, FDOT added highly skid-resistant material to the road surface at three Hillsborough Avenue intersections in Tampa to see how much it would enable vehicles to come to a stop within a shorter distance. The goal was to reduce “improper stopping behavior,” such as vehicles ending up in crosswalks, which puts pedestrians and cyclists at risk.
Florida and other states had used specially engineered material to increase friction on curves to prevent vehicles from running off the road. However, this is believed to have been the first time a U.S. transportation agency used intersection high-friction treatment to reduce stopping distances and study its effect on driver stopping behaviors at signalized intersections, as is done in some European countries.
FDOT’s two-year before-and-after study found that the increased friction reduced improper stopping behaviors at the three signalized intersections. On average, these reductions ranged from 11% to 31% compared to the pre-treatment conditions.
“The range in results comes from the comprehensive assessment we performed across multiple ‘after’ time periods, from six to 21 months, and several scenarios, including daytime and nighttime conditions, as well as dry and rainy weather. The effectiveness of friction treatments can last for a long period of time,” said Pei-Sung Lin, the study’s principal investigator.
The findings are significant in a state where about 1,000 people die every year in intersection collisions, according to officials. Between 2013 and 2022, about 27% of traffic fatalities and 35% of serious injuries statewide occurred at intersections.
“It works,” said Peter Hsu, who initiated the study as the FDOT District Safety Administrator for Tampa Bay. “It helps reduce stopping distance and improper stopping behaviors invading the crosswalks at signalized intersections.”
The National Roadway Safety Awards, presented biannually since 1999, are sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration and the nonprofit Roadway Safety Foundation. Projects were evaluated on safety effectiveness, innovation and efficient use of resources.
The 10 National Roadway Safety Award winners and two honorable mentions used proactive, data-driven, collaborative and cost-effective approaches to better protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorists across the country. Much of their work began amid a nationwide spike in vehicular crashes during the pandemic, when U.S. roadway fatalities rose 7.3% in 2020 and another 10.1% in 2021.
Along with Florida, other honorees include:
- North Carolina: NCDOT for reducing severe crashes at rural intersections by adding more all-way stops
- Illinois: Illinois Tollway for creating an app that shows livestream video of serious crashes to speed up incident response
- Louisiana: Acadiana Planning Commission for reducing severe crashes at rural “T” intersections using larger signs and rumble strips to alert distracted drivers
- Texas: TxDOT for reducing pedestrian fatalities on an Austin highway, particularly among people experiencing homelessness
- Delaware: DelDOT for reducing fatal and serious injury crashes by converting more intersections to all-way stops
- New Jersey: South Jersey Transportation Planning Organization for developing a plan to prioritize cyclist and pedestrian safety in rural Cumberland County
- New Jersey/New York: The Port Authority of NY & NJ for reducing crashes by using timely data analysis to proactively identify and address safety problems
- Minnesota: MnDOT for its widespread use of “J-turn” intersections on high-speed divided highways to reduce the severity of crashes
- California: Caltrans for implementing pedestrian protections, signs to prevent wrong-way driving and other cost-effective safety measures more quickly
- Virginia: VDOT (Honorable Mention) for funding lower-cost safety projects in a more systemic way aimed at preventing traffic fatalities and serious injuries
- Nevada: NDOT (Honorable Mention) for its first comprehensive plan to reduce speeding, a leading cause of fatal and severe crashes