October 21st, 2011

RURAL ROADS

Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

UDOT works with local governments to improve rural road safety.

Rural roads in Utah are often unpaved, like this road in Beaver, Utah.

In Utah and across the nation, improving safety on rural roads can be difficult for local governments and departments of transportation. Vast stretches of isolated roadway challenge drivers to stay alert. Funding for improvements to local roads off the state system can be scarce.  The federal government has charged state departments of transportation to tackle safety issues by establishing the High Risk Rural Roads program.

Except for the urban areas concentrated along Interstate 15 between Ogden and Provo, Utah is rural. The rural roads in Utah have many of typical characteristics as rural roads in other states. However, Utah has a greater percentage of rural roads on the state road system, making investigating, budgeting and improving rural road safety easier.  UDOT works with local governments to improve rural roads that are not on the state system.

First, UDOT engineers conduct a safety audit by driving rural roads and looking out for known safety hazzards. Then, UDOT works with local governments to make changes that improve safety. Some of the most common improvements include:

  • Installing safety barrier on a curve to protect motorists run off the road crashes
  • Cutting rumble strips into the pavement on the side or middle of the road to signal motorists when tires cross lane lines
  • Installing median barrier to prevent cross-over collisions
  • Clearing obstructions from the road side to improve visibility
  • Installing warning signs or delineators to mark the shoulder
  • Widening intersections and adding turn lanes

UDOT took a public education approach to safety on I-80 between Wendover and Tooele County. Tired, distracted drivers were involved in run off the road crashes on the long, barren stretch of freeway. Signs that warn drivers about the dangers of distracted driving were placed on the route. After some time, UDOT surveyed drivers at the rest area on I-80 and found that most saw and read the signs. While not a safety improvement per se, the signs were shown to increase awareness of drowsy driving as a potential crash factor.

Improving safety on rural roads is part of UDOT’s Zero Fatalities Comprehensive Safety Plan aimed at reducing fatalities to zero on all roads.

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