In 1971, the Five Man Electrical Band, a crew of Canadian rockers, released the song “Signs,” which vented the songwriter’s disdain for certain examples of visual forewarning that he encountered. In the chorus, the singer belts out, “Do this, don’t do that! Can’t you read the sign?”
My colleagues and I at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) share something in common with that songwriter. We, too, want to know if you can read the sign. More specifically, we want to know:
- Are those signs, signals and pavement markings visible?
- Is their message clear and understandable?
- Do they do the job they’re expected to do?
Those questions are at the heart of research that we spotlight in this issue.
We highlight our work with reflective pavement markings, ensuring that those imprints guide you along a safe path — day or night, rain or shine. We share our new work with the Traffic Optimization for Signalized Corridors (TOSCo) system, designed to help automated and connected vehicles (AVs/CVs) adjust their speed and move in unison through signalized junctions. Using those same AV/CV technologies, we’re enhancing traffic signal systems to alert transit bus drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists to dangers at intersections.
We present our latest efforts to maximize rural roadway safety, which consider things like aggregate selection to help prevent wet weather crashes and roadside treatments to minimize the chance of run-off-the-road collisions on two-lane/two-way thoroughfares, the most common type of crash on the most common type of pavement pathway in Texas.
In addition, we showcase TTI’s Visibility Research Laboratory and our smart intersection, which advance our work in traffic signal control, detection technology and connected vehicle infrastructure.
Traffic signs, signals and lane markings have democratized mobility in the United States and around the world. By means of a universal language all their own, they’ve enabled self-governance in how we move ourselves and the things we need from one place to another. Vital as they are, they’re easily taken for granted. The banal appearance of paint striping on asphalt, for instance, belies the vast amount of scientific discovery that made that pavement marking possible.
Just imagine roadway travel a century ago when Garrett Morgan introduced the first traffic signal in America. Only if we imagine the roadway environment ruled by chaos at that time can we fully appreciate the devices today that ensure road rule commonality from one state to the next. Best of all, our research ensures that those innovations will keep getting better. And in the interest of safe and smooth travel for us all, that’s a very encouraging sign indeed.