When the road saves your life

A study by the Institute of Road Safety MAPFRE and the Spanish Road Association

Almost 2.000 km. white sections of the conventional network state 120 lives saved per year

In conventional roads State Network are 1.868 kilometers (12% of these roads) where there have been no fatal accidents over a period of at least five years. This is confirmed by the report prepared by the Institute of Road Safety MAPFRE and the Spanish Road Association (AEC) after analyzing more than 200.000 traffic accidents occurred in the state network between 1997 and 2001. The analysis of these data has led the investigators to describe these stretches of road as "white sections", whose technical characteristics have allowed avoid around 120 deaths per year due to traffic accidents.

It stretches over 25 kilometers in which there have been no fatal incidents for five or more consecutive years, so their study is essential to understand, extrapolating conclusions, how the infrastructure can influence the absence of accidents or the fact that the consequences of these are not fatal. On conventional roads are one lane in each direction 3,5 meters wide, sometimes it appears lentos- additional one for vehicles, berm 1,5 2 to meters in most cases, and maximum speeds of 90 or 100 kilometers per hour.

Wide vision sections are perfectly predictable and gently fit the terrain. Its layout is characterized by lack of grazing unpredictable changes and tight corners that hide the next tranche and, if they exist, are always well marked.

Also are good sections with a firm but not transmit a false sense of security, that is, it does not encourage the driver to drive faster than permitted. Nor forces him to do so below this limit (investigations of the Spanish Road Association supported users in surveys reveal that when the surface layer has dark, drivers tend to overestimate the safety margin of the road, assuming levels of risk above which supports the infrastructure as a whole).

The white sections also have the common feature good vertical signs both for its location and for its preservation and visibility. The horizontal marks are in optimum condition and are complemented by cebreados areas at intersections and arrows to mark the end of the overtaking zone. They also have milestones edge and directional panels in the corners, as well as containment metal barriers with C-profiles or concrete parapets whenever these are needed.

The report data also reveal that the amount of information received by the user is not overflowing, but not scarce. That is, the equipment is necessary, so that the driver is forced to make additional efforts to interpret the information provided by the satellite as a whole. Furthermore, recommendation signals predominate over those of prohibition. However it is achieved that offered more credible signal to the user.

Other determinants of the level of security are the composition and intensity of traffic. The white sections are characterized by permit, without friction, the coexistence of different users very light, heavy, mopeds, bicycles and even Tractor--motor. Regarding traffic combinations that maintain these safety margins are those which have a low intensity of heavy vehicles with an average intensity of light. Or the opposite situation, a low / medium high intensity light and heavy. This, coupled with the generous layout visibility and proper coordination of curved and straight, makes it easier to overtake safely. In fact, the percentage of stretch in which it is possible to advance exceeds 60% of the total.

Report data distinguish two types of sections by Average Daily Traffic (ADT): those for which run between 700 and 1.400 vehicles a day with heavy traffic between the 10 and 17 percent, and those whose IMD oscillates between the 1.950 and 3.200 heavy vehicles with percentages ranging from 7 to 9 percent.

Finally, regarding intersections and crossings, it should be noted that a variety of technical solutions that work properly, even those with other combinations of traffic often pose serious problems are detected. At this point, it must be emphasized that there is great ignorance about traffic combinations that make a crossing or a crossing in more or less conflicting solutions in certain circumstances.

The guidelines for road project can be improved significantly considering the science of human behavior. Therefore, a characterization of the pathways is readily recognizable by the user is needed. The approaches of the last successful security concepts, such as the Swedish Vision Zero and Dutch Sustainable Safety, based on these elements. The consistent layout recognizable uniform and roads encourages drivers to adopt an appropriate speed and accept the innate system limitations.

In short, and as those responsible for this research, called "white sections" are characterized mainly because the whole -trazado infrastructure, pavement and equipment- transmits a "consistent" information to the driver, consistency that translates into a much lower probability of human error and, more importantly, in a greater possibility that the error, if any, would not have dire consequences.

This conclusion could be, according to the Institute of Road Safety MAPFRE and the Spanish Road Association, one of the keys to raising the safety margins of any road infrastructure.

Communities safer

For communities, concentrating a higher percentage of kilometers without fatalities is Aragon. Its 1.744 kilometers of state roads, more than 23% are white sections. Followers Asturias and Castilla-La Mancha with more than 16%, and Valencia and La Rioja with more than 15%. By provinces, Guadalajara stands first, with 35,19%, followed closely by Teruel, with 31,42% and greater distance Basin, with 25,40%.

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