Traffic Fatalities Report – How Are Civil Engineers Saving Lives?

April 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm 5 comments

 Matt Barcus
President, Precision Executive Search, Inc
Managing Partner,

View Matt’s profile & connect with him on LinkedIn

A report released on April 1st by the US Department of Transportation concluded that US traffic fatalities are its lowest level since 1949. 

The basis for this decline, and some  noted in the report, are numerous:

*  The Recession – People travel less during down a down economy 

*  Technology – Employers now allow employees to work from home more often as they can easily log into a secure server and be as equally productive at a lower cost to the employer

* Vigilant Drunk Driving Enforcement – Recent  legislation makes the legal limit .08 in all states and those guilty of drunk driving are being held more accountable for their actions…and rightfully so!

* Improved Vehicle Safety – Three-point seatbelts now required in all cars; airbags in many cars now envelop passengers; advanced design of the outer shell

Tradition shows that traffic engineers, transportation planners, and highway engineers also play a major role in highway safety by:

* Designing improved barrier systems via 3D modeling

* Better controlling traffic at access points

* Better controlling traffic through construction zones

* Applying ITS programs to enhance highway safety

* Developing public transit alternatives (i.e. HSR) that appeal to the public

For those of us who are not engineers, for those who are currently studying or looking to study civil engineering in college,  and for those engineers whose area of expertise falls outside of transportation, what are some of the current and future innovations from a civil / transportation engineering perspective that have contributed to this decline and that will hopefully contribute to the future decline of this statistic? 

This blog is receives over 5,000 visitors each month, most of which are civil engineering professionals.  Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this very topic and hopefully for generating some great discussion!


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Entry filed under: Civil Engineering, civil engineering blog, Civil Engineering Issues, Highway Engineering, Uncategorized, US Infrastructure.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Filipe Coutinho  |  April 28, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks, I will look forward to the website.

    I think we’ll have to wait a little bit – 100 years, cof cof – to have something like it on Brazil. But it’s another discussion.

  • 2. Jenny Kutz  |  April 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Oh yes, I thought it would post the website! It is You can read all about the technology there.

    We are working on gathering more the safety data from our clients now. We can measure the operational performance of the technology immediately (stop reductions, travel time reductions, fuel and emissions reductions, etc.) but of course it takes longer to see how much accidents decrease over time.

    This system is installed or contracted to be installed at 400 intersections in 18 different states… we don’t have any projects in Brazil or other non-U.S. locations yet, but hopefully soon.

  • 3. Filipe Coutinho  |  April 28, 2011 at 11:55 am

    That’s great, Jenny. It’s good to see someone working on that, since we alway hear about it, but never really see. In my personal experience. Can you share some informations about this work? Cheers from Brazil.

  • 4. Jenny Kutz  |  April 28, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Thanks for posting this, Matt! That is great news about fatalities being at their lowest level in more than 60 years, and I agree that it’s due to a wide range of reasons.

    I work for a company that is relatively new so we can’t claim much credit for this statistic (yet!!) but we make a real-time adaptive traffic control system called InSync. It uses artificial intelligence to make the traffic signals adapt to actual traffic demand moment by moment. One of our clients, the Missouri DOT, said that they noticed a 16% drop in crashes at intersections because the traffic signals were intelligently coordinated. Other clients are also now watching their accident numbers to see the safety improvements of this ITS technology. It’s exciting to see innovations like this applied to the roads we drive every day, and I say that as a driver!

    • 5. aepcentral  |  April 28, 2011 at 10:59 am

      Hi Jenny – thanks for reading and that is great news! The current and emerging technology that is involved in traffic engineering and transportation planning through ITS is very exciting. It’s amazing how far we’ve come and what the future holds…


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