Road engineers are being accused of inviting crashes, leading a professor to publicly call them out for their negligence.

Traffic engineers play a crucial role in promoting safety on the roads, but according to an essay by Wesley Marshall, a professor of civil engineering, they also have a responsibility for accidents and injuries due to outdated research and faulty data. Marshall argues that blaming road user error for most crashes is oversimplified, as the design of roads and vehicles also play a significant role in road safety. This article will explore Marshall’s arguments, the impact of traffic engineering on road safety, and potential solutions to prevent accidents.

In his essay titled, “Traffic engineers build roads that invite crashes because they rely on outdated research and faulty data,” Marshall challenges the traditional approach of attributing crashes solely to road users. He points out that blaming drivers, pedestrians, or cyclists for accidents overlooks the role of traffic engineers in creating an environment where accidents are more likely to occur. Marshal emphasizes the importance of better engineering in designing safer communities and streets to prevent avoidable injuries and deaths.

The Problem of Overreliance on Road User Error

One of the key issues highlighted by Marshall is the tendency to attribute the majority of crashes to road user error. While it is true that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has reported road user error as the critical reason behind 94 percent of crashes, injuries, and deaths, Marshall argues that this approach oversimplifies the complex factors at play. By solely blaming road users, the role of traffic engineers, planners, and policymakers in creating unsafe road conditions is often overlooked.

The Impact of Road Design on Safety

Marshall points out that the design of roads and streets can contribute significantly to the occurrence of accidents. For instance, when traffic engineers build wide streets that resemble freeways, they may inadvertently encourage speeding and reckless driving. Similarly, poorly designed crosswalks or inadequate infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists can increase the likelihood of accidents. Marshall highlights the need for traffic engineers to reconsider their approach to road design and prioritize safety over speed and efficiency.

Challenges in Interpreting Crash Data

Another issue raised by Marshall is the interpretation of crash data and its implications for road safety. While law enforcement and insurance companies may find it useful to assign fault to specific road users, this approach does not provide valuable insights for transportation engineers, planners, policymakers, or automakers. By focusing on individual blame rather than systemic issues in road design, the opportunity to improve safety measures and prevent future accidents is missed.

Proposed Solutions for Safer Streets

In conclusion, Marshall suggests that a reevaluation of current practices and thinking is necessary to address the root causes of road accidents. Rather than solely focusing on road user error, he encourages traffic engineers and policymakers to consider the role of infrastructure, vehicle design, and overall road environment in promoting safety. By prioritizing the design of streets that are conducive to safe and efficient transportation for all road users, significant progress can be made in reducing accidents and injuries on the roads.

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