The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta awarded the “New Investigator Training Award for Unintentional Injury Prevention” to Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) in early September. This $100,000 grant was awarded to study measures for improving the safety of older drivers by improving the design of traffic roundabouts. Roundabouts are circular intersections that require entering traffic to give way, or yield, to circulating traffic. The goal of the study is to find design elements that will encourage the use of circular intersections by older drivers.
The grant will fund a study headed by Dominique Lord, an associate research scientist for the Center for Transportation Safety at TTI. A recent national award-winning study by Lord has shown that the conversion of traditional intersections to roundabouts has significant positive effects on safety.
Lord says this study will help develop new and improved guidelines for designing roundabouts, a transportation design feature that is being used increasingly in states like Florida, Colorado, Maryland, and other northeastern states. Texas has roundabout intersections in Addison and Fort Worth.
“Many states have an active program to convert traditional intersections to modern roundabouts,” says Lord. “The goal is to improve safety at intersections.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 43 percent of all crashes occur at or near an intersection. Older drivers are over-represented in these crashes. Between 48 percent and 55 percent of all fatal crashes involving a driver 80 years old or older happen at intersections—more than twice the percentage found for drivers age 50 and under. Lord’s research is expected to increase safety as these older drivers pass through roundabouts, which may seem more confusing than other intersections.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the population of people over age 65 will nearly double from current levels by 2030. One-fifth of the driving population of the Unites States will be over the age of 65 by 2020. The increasing number of older drivers navigating roundabouts and roadways creates a greater need for research opportunities on ways to minimize crashes and maximize safety, Lord says.
TTI is the largest university-based transportation research agency in the nation. Research conducted there helps make the nation’s transportation system work, helps make it safe, and helps make it last.