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What’s a “road diet” and how do they make roads safer?

For the roads that see a high number of crashes, a high volume of traffic is often the underlying cause of the issue. In many areas, the initial response to increased traffic is to widen the roads. Whenever possible, communities may plan to add more lanes to roads that see a lot of traffic and higher crash rates.

However, some municipal planners and safety experts have started leaning toward “road diets” instead of projects intended to widen or enlarge busy roads. What exactly is a road diet, and how can it help reduce crash rates?

A road diet involves reconfiguring a street

In an expansion project, there is often significant construction required, as workers may need to add new lanes of traffic. However, a road diet can work with the existing infrastructure, possibly reducing crash risk without imposing massive construction costs.

Typically, road diets are options for four-lane roads. Authorities arrange to resurface and repaint the road, turning it into a two-lane road with a center turn lane and a bicycle lane on each side. This design helps in numerous ways.

Road diets can reduce the congestion associated with turns by providing a central lane to be used by both directions of traffic. The bicycle lanes help provide a buffer for those using their own energy rather than fossil fuels to transport themselves. It is possible to put islands in the center turn lane for pedestrians crossing the street, and there are also fewer lanes of traffic for pedestrians to cross. Research has found that traffic diets help by calming the rate of traffic and ensuring more consistent speeds.

Road planning can play a major role in crash risk

The way that states and local municipalities plan and maintain roads will have a major influence on public safety. Better, more thorough planning can potentially reduce the number of crashes that occur while also making the community safer for cyclists and pedestrians as well. Road diets are a viable option on four-lane roads that see 25,000 vehicle travel through each day, but they aren’t necessarily the best solution in all circumstances.

Drivers need to be ready to adjust to changing road conditions if they hope to avoid causing crashes. Learning more about ways to prevent and minimize motor vehicle collisions can help those worried about traffic safety minimize their personal risk on the road.


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