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R.A. Smith National, Inc. Knowledge Blog

Better Headlights are Critical for Nighttime Roadway Safety

by Laura Zavadil 27. June 2016 11:02

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently conducted its first-ever evaluation of headlight performance.  Government standards allow a wide range of illumination available to the consumer, so the IIHS tested 31 midsized vehicles with available headlight options for a total of 82 vehicle and headlight combinations. 

The IIHS study measured illumination with high beams and low beams on a test track including straightaways, various curved sections, and roadway obstacles.  Only one of the 82 combinations tested – the Toyota Prius v with LED headlights and high beam assist – earned a good rating. About one-third of the midsized cars tested can earn an acceptable rating by upgrading the headlights to the best available on the market, but another one-third cannot be purchased with headlights that rate higher than poor. This could be because some headlights are designed with aesthetics in mind, not illumination.

Headlights are a vital factor in roadway safety. About half of fatalities occur during the night or when lighting is dim such as at dawn or dusk. Better illumination does not correlate to a higher priced vehicle. For example, the IIHS study showed the best available headlights for the Toyota Prius v (rated “good”) illuminate roadway obstacles on the test track much better than the best available headlights for the BMW 3 series (rated “marginal”). Better illumination from headlights allows drivers more time to react and longer braking distances to avoid hitting obstacles in the roadway. Improved headlights could reduce nighttime fatalities by preventing drivers from hitting roadway obstacles such as deer or pedestrians, or from veering off the road by better illuminating curves in the roadway. 

The news release from IIHS and a video with additional information on the recent study can be viewed here.   

Currently there is not a great recommendation to consumers for the best possible headlight illumination. Future studies from IIHS should drive the need to improve headlight design to focus primarily on illumination rather than aesthetics.



Driver Alert! Recent Updates to Wisconsin’s Traffic Laws

by John Bruggeman 13. June 2016 02:37

Joanna Bush, state traffic signal systems engineer at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT), provided an informative presentation at the 2016 Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Traffic Engineering Workshop regarding recent updates to Wisconsin traffic laws. Some have received a lot of publicity over the last year, but there are others you may not be aware of. Updates include:

  • Maximum speed limit on freeways and expressways
  • Rules of the road when a traffic signal goes dark
  • Clear definition of the terms “flashing yellow arrow,” “pavement marking,” and pedestrian traffic signal indications
  • Right-turns on red from the left-most lane when two right-turn lanes are provided
  • Right-of-way in roundabouts for large trucks
  • Use of cell phones in construction zones

Check out Joanna’s presentation here.

Image courtesy of ITE Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation Bureau of Traffic Operations.

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2015 Road Construction Safety Tips

by Benjie Hayek 12. June 2015 11:27

Another year has passed and this year’s construction season is
off to a busy start! The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
has published a brochure titled "Creating Safer Work Zones: Improving Operations on Both Sides of the Barrel." This brochure provides safety tips and useful information to navigate safely through road construction work zones. Print out a copy below to share with others.

Main topics covered:

  • Stay alert and minimize distractions
  • Keep your headlights on
  • Pay attention
  • Merge into the proper lane
  • Don’t tailgate
  • Obey posted speed limit signs
  • Change lanes safely
  • Follow instructions from flag persons
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Be patient!

2015 Road Construction Safety Tips.pdf (300.63 kb)

Construction Safety Tips

Courtesy Federal Highway Administration

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Construction Services

Wisconsin Roadway Fatalities Declined in 2014

by Laura Schroeder 3. March 2015 08:47

In early January, WisDOT’s changeable message signs displayed the total 2014 Wisconsin roadway fatalities at 491*. In 2014 Wisconsin’s roadway fatalities fell below 500 for the first time since 1943. This a pretty incredible feat considering the amount of cars on the road and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) have increased significantly over those seven decades.

The past decade shows a similar improvement. In 2014 roadway fatalities in Wisconsin decreased by 345 from 2003 – a 41% reduction compared to 2003’s 836 roadway fatalities. In comparison, Figure 1 shows the VMT has remained relatively constant from 2003 through 2014, at just around 60,000 MVMT (million vehicle miles traveled). Fatalities have dropped significantly while the amount of driving has remained almost constant. These figures seem to indicate that more drivers are slowing down, paying attention, buckling up and driving sober. In fact, Wisconsin’s seat belt compliance has increased from 70% in 2003 to 85% in 2014, and drunk driving fatalities have decreased 47% since 2003.

Although this is great progress, we can still do more to reduce the number of roadway fatalities in Wisconsin. It is important that we take the necessary steps to make our roads safer; such as educating the public, advancing the engineering of our vehicles and roadways, and providing enforcement to keep the roadways safe. R.A. Smith National’s transportation and traffic engineers work to increase roadway safety on our transportation projects, a few of which include modernizing the WIS 59 interchange along the I-39/90 corridor, implementing pedestrian and bicycle enhancements along WIS 20/83 in Waterford, incorporating cutting-edge traffic signal equipment along WIS 50 in Kenosha County, constructing five roundabouts on WIS 145 in Richfield, and implementing access management improvements along Bluemound Road in Waukesha County.

You can read more about this topic and find the most current statistics at:

*Note this number is still preliminary due to reporting delays and fatalities resulting from injuries due to crashes in late 2014.




I-94 North-South Project Update

by John Bruggeman 10. March 2014 03:29

The snowy, cold winter gives us some time to look back at the 2013 construction season and the new traffic signal improvements along the I-94 North-South corridor. Three new interchanges were opened in late 2013. These interchanges included some of the latest in traffic signal technology and operational features. 

The Rawson Avenue interchange provided TTI traffic signal phasing to minimize traffic backups internal to the interchange and to allow traffic to travel through both ramp intersections in one sequence. The WIS 158 interchange added new traffic signals (previously unsignalized) and provides a much needed east-west alternate route for those traveling between I-94 and the City of Kenosha. 

The new interchange at 71st Street makes up the north half of a new split diamond interchange configuration being constructed in the WIS 50 area. These signals implemented the use of the flashing yellow arrow and both GPS and Infrared Emergency Vehicle Preemption equipment. 2014 marks the final year of construction in the WIS 50 area, when the south half of the interchange will be fully complete. Upon completion, a total of six new traffic signals will service the interchange area. 

Construction will ramp back up as soon as the weather starts to warm up, so stay tuned and think spring!

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