Six state departments of transportation recently took home National Roadway Safety Awards for infrastructure projects aimed at reducing highway injuries and fatalities, with two other state DOTs receiving honorable mentions for their efforts.
The biennial National Roadway Safety Awards program – presented by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Roadway Safety Foundation (RSF) since 1999 – honors initiatives that improve roadway safety at the state and local level.
“The problem-solving creativity and dedication shown by every one of the award winners and honorees will save countless lives – using a data driven approach and practices that are proven to reduce crashes,” said FHWA Administrator Shailen Bhatt in a statement. “The 2023 award winners demonstrate a strong commitment to moving the United States toward zero deaths and serious injuries on our nation’s roadways, and we are proud to applaud their efforts.”
The National Roadway Safety Awards encompass two categories: Infrastructure and Operational Improvements; and Program Planning, Development, and Evaluation. Overall, 10 projects received awards, which included the six state DOT winners:
California Department of Transportation for instituting a pilot program that rapidly installs wrong-way driver prevention and other safety enhancements. The approach allows Caltrans districts to implement stand-alone safety projects more quickly than through traditional means, delivering new signs, high visibility crosswalks, curve warning signs and other cost-effective safety measures within a single year.
Delaware Department of Transportation for converting 20 low-volume intersections from two-way to all-way stops. In the two years following the change (2021 and 2022), the number of crashes at those intersections fell by 71 percent. Fatal crashes dropped by 75 percent, while crashes with injuries plummeted by 90 percent.
Florida Department of Transportation for demonstrating how increased pavement friction helps motorists stop more quickly and retain better control at high-speed intersections. FDOT added highly skid-resistant material to the road surface at three intersections in Tampa and during the two years after implementation, improper stopping behaviors (e.g., vehicles coming to stops in crosswalks) were reduced between 11 percent and 31 percent.
Minnesota Department of Transportation for installing more than 80 “J-turn” intersections since 2010, mostly on divided rural highways. A 2021 evaluation found a 69 percent reduction in fatal and serious injury crashes due to the addition of the J-turns, which are used on four-lane divided highways where intersecting roads have too little traffic to require a traffic light. With J-turns, motorists on the lightly traveled road who want to go straight across the more heavily traveled highway or are bound for destinations to the left are first routed to the right on the highway and then to a U-turn down the road, enabling safer, more gradual merges.
North Carolina Department of Transportation for significantly reducing the number of fatal and serious injury crashes at rural intersections. Included in NCDOT’s improvements was the addition of all-way stops at 350 rural intersections. As of fall 2022, those intersections showed a 55 percent reduction in total crashes and a 92 percent drop in crashes with fatalities and severe injuries.
Texas Department of Transportation for working with community leaders to prevent pedestrians from crossing a section of Interstate 35 in Austin. As of June 2023, the “Be Safe, Be Seen” educational campaign, together with infrastructure enhancements, contributed to 64 percent fewer pedestrian fatalities overall and 89 percent fewer fatalities among unhoused pedestrians.
The honorable mentions are:
Nevada Department of Transportation for preparing the state’s first Speed Management Action Plan to identify ways to slow down drivers through improved road design, more visible law enforcement and public education. Between 2015 and 2019, 31 percent of Nevada’s total fatal crashes were related to high speed.
Virginia Department of Transportation for funding lower cost but more widespread safety initiatives to prevent traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Breaking with the traditional practice of implementing spot safety improvements in response to crashes at a specific site, Virginia DOT’s new approach evaluates factors that contribute to crashes, including road design and traffic patterns as well as the impact of recent nearby development (i.e., residential or commercial) that attracts more walkers or cyclists. Learn more about the Roadway Safety Foundation here.