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MDOT improves safety for older drivers


A recent study by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Western Michigan University shows new signs and signals make roads safer for older drivers. Michigan’s aging population has resulted in an increase in the number of older drivers involved in traffic crashes. The number of drivers age 65 and older involved in crashes in Michigan increased by 2.4 percent from 2004 to 2013, even as the number of all drivers involved in crashes dropped by 23.8 percent during the same period.

In 2004, MDOT began implementing engineering countermeasures addressing the needs of older drivers.

• The use of Clearview font on guide signs, which improve legibility by minimizing blurring around the edges of the letters.

• The use of fluorescent yellow sheeting, a new, brighter color for warning signs that is more visible.

• Box span signal configuration, in which traffic signals are suspended along all four sides of an intersection, to improving safety and visibility.

• Pedestrian countdown signals, which show the number of seconds remaining to safely cross the roadway. These signals help pedestrians decide whether to start crossing an intersection or adjust their walking speed.

• Arrow-per-lane signing, which clarifies navigation paths with a directional arrow above each limited access highway lane.

Kimberly Lariviere, MDOT Strategic Highway Safety engineer, is the project manager.

“The benefit-cost ratio for all of these previously used devices was very good, and some were exceptional,” Lariviere said. “This research confirms that the improvements MDOT started making 11 years ago for older drivers were wise investments that we should continue implementing.”

The improvements were reviewed in two ways. Researchers surveyed 1,590 Michigan drivers and pedestrians in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Lansing to learn their perceptions of the improvements. Historical crash data, before and after implementation, also was analyzed to determine the impacts of the improvements on safety.

The surveys revealed drivers preferred the improvements over the traditional alternatives. Data analysis showed all five improvements offered cost-effective ways to reduce crash rates among all drivers, specifically among older drivers.

This project confirms that all five of the improvements studied provided good safety benefits for the amount of money invested, and several produced exceptional benefit-cost ratios. Researchers recommend continuing to install them in appropriate locations.

More details are available in the MDOT research spotlight report “Evaluation of Michigan’s Engineering Improvements for Older Drivers” online. www.michigan.gov/documents/mdot/RC1636_Spotlight_506683_7.pdf

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Impaired driving deaths and injuries rise

N-Drunk-driving-auditThe Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning released statistics this week showing an increase in alcohol- and drug-related crashes, fatalities and injuries in the last year. However, a five-year picture shows an overall decline, with alcohol involvement decreasing more rapidly than drug involvement.

The 2012 Michigan Drunk Driving audit showed that traffic deaths resulting from alcohol- and/or drug-related crashes jumped 7.2 percent, from 319 in 2011 to 342 in 2012, while injuries increased from 6,086 to 6,177.  Drug involvement in traffic fatalities increased 6.3 percent, from 127 deaths in 2011 to 135 in 2012, while alcohol involvement climbed 2.6 percent, from 274 to 281. Seventy-four deaths involved both alcohol and drugs and were counted in each category.

The increases come after dramatic drops in all categories in 2011. It should be noted deaths involving alcohol and/or drugs have fallen by 9.8 percent over the past five years. Alcohol-involved traffic deaths have decreased by 11.4 percent since 2008, while drug-involved deaths have declined by 3.6 percent.

“Although 2012 saw increases in impaired driving deaths and injuries, the overall trend in Michigan is a positive one,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the Michigan State Police (MSP).  “Officers in Michigan have been and will continue to make impaired driving enforcement a priority.”

The Drunk Driving Audit is an annual report issued by the MSP Criminal Justice Information Center and is a collaborative effort between MSP and the Michigan Department of State.

“While the overall decline in injuries and deaths over the last five years is encouraging, the 2012 report shows we must be vigilant and continue to educate drivers about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs,” said Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. “Law enforcement does an exceptional job and our driver education partners are doing everything they can to educate drivers but it’s going to take all of us working together to save lives and make our roads safe.”

In 2012, officers made 37,182 alcohol and drug-related driving arrests. Male drivers were nearly three times as likely as female drivers to be arrested for impaired driving, with 27,606 men arrested compared to 9,576 women. There were 36,322 persons convicted of operating under the influence of liquor or other impaired driving offenses. Some of these convictions include arrests made in prior years.

The 2012 Drunk Driving Audit includes county-specific information and is available at Michigan.gov/drunkdrivingaudit.


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