September 2017

County Roadway Safety Needs a Champion  -  It's You!

 By Brian Keierleber, PE
       NACE President

I recently attended two Local Road Safety Peer Exchanges for the FHWA. Both were excellent learning opportunities for me. The first was in beautiful Greenville, S.C., hosted by the gracious Councilman Fred Payne, Greenville County. The focus of the peer exchange was working with elected officials on local road safety issues. Having both the engineers and elected officials together created excellent interactions. The second peer exchange in Boise, Idaho, was focused on developing Local Road Safety Plans.

The expression has been stated ”If not me, then who?” It is so true because no one knows our road systems better than we do. We can make a difference, but we must take the initiative to do so. No magic genie is going to climb out of a bottle and grant our wish to improve our roads. It will take some courage on our part. I have built a roundabout at the intersection of two county roads surrounded by cornfields. Yes there was criticism and colorful language about my ancestor. The reality is when you know what you are doing is right, then an issue like a little criticism shouldn't deter us. Knowledge and statistics on our side are the best weapons to subdue the comments that can come from the unknowing.

I have placed centerline rumbles, shoulder rumbles and rumble stripes. There are complaints, but for the most part after people get accustomed to them they begin to like them. Change comes hard for all of us. When we look at a reduction in fatalities and know it is due in part to our actions, it is well worth the criticism. We purchased right of way and constructed wider shoulders and flatter slopes. Farmers in the area were extremely critical and very vocal. I must commend the Board of Supervisors for having the courage to stick through the process. Now many of the people in opposition are very thankful for the improvements and are courageous enough to publicly state so. More importantly, these improvements are paying off.

Now I learn about wider fog lines and destination lights, so I must have the courage to take on the future maintenance to construct them. If one life is saved, they are well worth it. When a fatal crash occurs on the interstate system, it seems to be from out of the area or just another statistic. On our local road he or she is our friend or neighbor; we often know them or a family member.

NACE through the Local Road Safety Foundation is working towards drawing awareness of local roads safety issues and increasing the resources available. Generally speaking, it is believed that about half of the fatal accidents occur on the local roads but about 10 percent of the HSIP funds get to the locals. Our ongoing Road To Zero grant will identify the exact fatality and funding allocations. There will not be a significant reduction in fatalities until low cost safety measures are implemented on the local system. A major step in this process is for the Local Agency to develop a Local Road Safety Plan. In some areas that is an essential step to acquire safety funds.

By the way, NACE will be holding a “Do it yourself” Local Road Safety Plan pre-conference workshop at our Annual Conference. More expensive measures such as roundabouts are constantly being improved and public acceptance is rapidly growing in many areas including agricultural areas. With a fatal crash reduction in the vicinity of 90 percent, they are clearly a tool that cannot be ignored.  

Safety in your county needs a Champion and it’s YOU. You’ve no doubt heard, you have the opportunity to save more lives than most physicians. The life you save may be someone you know. You will have help. You have the knowledge to save lives. Success on this is well worth the efforts. Everyone deserves to get home safely.

Be Safe Out There.

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