Large Truck Crash Fatalities

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

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An 18-wheeler maneuvers through Worcester traffic (from Worcester Magazine, file photo, Steven King)

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has updated its summary on large truck crashes and fatalities to include 2016 data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) maintained by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The FARS data show though the number of deaths from large truck crashes has decreased nationally over the last 30 years, the last few years have seen an increase.

In 2016, a total of 3,986 people died in large truck crashes. Two-thirds of these deaths were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles, 17 percent were truck occupants, and 16 percent were pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.

According to IIHS’s analysis of the 2016 FARS data:

  • The number of people who died in large truck crashes was 27% higher in 2016 than in 2009, when it was the lowest it had been since the collection of fatal crash data began in 1975.
  • The number of truck occupant deaths was 47% higher than in 2009.
  • 73% of deaths in large truck crashes involved tractor trailers.
  • 62% of large truck occupant deaths occurred in single-vehicle crashes.
  • 67% of large truck occupants that were killed in multiple-vehicle crashes were in a collision involving another large truck.
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Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Dec 2017. http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/large-trucks/fatalityfacts/large-trucks

In its summary, the IIHS writes that “truck-braking capability can be a factor in truck crashes.  Loaded tractor-trailers take 20-40% farther than cars to stop and the discrepancy is greater on wet roads or with poorly maintained brakes.  Truck driver fatigue also is a known crash risk.”

A study conducted by NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on large truck crashes over a 3-year period found that truck driver inattention due to fatigue, distraction, and related factors can contribute up to 35% of truck crashes involved an injury or death. As discussed in a recent Innovative Outlook article, one issue which may contribute to truck driver fatigue is the lack of sufficient rest areas for large trucks.

The recent FARS data for Massachusetts shows that the number of fatal crashes in-state involving large trucks declined from 31 crashes in 2013 to 25 crashes in 2016. Over the same period, the number of truck occupant deaths from these crashes decreased from 4 to 2. This indicates that many of the people killed in the crashes involving large trucks were outside of the trucks, as occupants in other vehicles or as motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.

Massachusetts Highlights Alternative Transportation Achievements

by Courtney Murtagh, UMTC Intern

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Hubway bike Sharing Boston

As warm spring temperatures finally welcome us in Massachusetts, pedestrians and bicyclists emerge from a long winter’s hibernation. Lucky for many of these pedestrians and cyclists, they are greeted by new infrastructure, trails, and programs implemented by the Baker-Polito Administration and the City of Boston.

All throughout 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) worked to improve pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure to get more people using alternative modes of transportation. In November 2017, their work seemingly paid off, when Massachusetts was nationally recognized by the League of American Bicyclists for being the fourth most bicycle-friendly state in the nation.

The report took into account each state’s infrastructure, funding, policies, programs and education on bicycle friendliness when creating the rankings. It is no wonder Massachusetts ranked so high on the list as huge strides have been made in the past year to fund alternative transportation.

For example, Governor Baker created an Interagency Trail Team with MassDOT, the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). Their goal is to create a unified network of biking trails throughout the Commonwealth.

So far, $1.5 million has been dedicated to fund designs of the 10-mile Northern Strand Community Trail running through Everett, Lynn, Malden, Revere, and Saugus. There has been $12.2 million distributed to 33 municipalities in order to improve over 200 intersections and crosswalks, as well as add or improve over 16 miles of sidewalks and trails.  At least eight other trails or intersections have also been completed, improved, or added this year.  There has been an increase in education for bike safety through videos, conferences, and safety campaigns like, “Scan the Street for Wheels and Feet.”

The Baker-Polito Administration also increased funding to $3.2 million per year for the DCR to give out grants for those who wish to construct or maintain trails across Massachusetts for the next two years.

This summer, as part of this healthy and supporting alternative transportation initiative, Boston’s Hubway, a bike sharing system throughout Boston and surrounding municipalities, is expanding to over 70 locations that were suggested by Boston’s citizens. Proposed maps can be seen on the Boston Bike Share website or the scheduled 11 open houses throughout Boston. After receiving final comments and opinions on the proposed site expansions, the stations will be created and ready for use.

Boston Hubway currently has over 1,600 bikes at over 160 stations in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville. The program has many affordable options, costing either $99 or $50 a year depending on income eligibility, or if one is not looking for a commitment there are 24 and 72-hour options for $8 to $15. The bikes can be picked up at any convenient location and returned at another without penalty.

As the temperatures rise, there are plenty of options for Massachusetts’s residents to safely consider alternative transportation in their future travels.

According to Professor Robert L. Ryan, FASLA, Chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and UMTC Affiliate Researcher, “Boston has long been a leader in alternative transportation through its commitment to the historic Emerald Necklace of parks and trails.  Recent efforts to complete this historic vision are the exciting new Emerald Network project.”

“The Emerald Network is a vision for 200 miles of seamless shared-use greenway paths in the urban core of Boston and its adjacent cities” (Source: https://www.emeraldnetwork.info/ ) that is being proposed by the Livable Streets Alliance and is working in conjunction with the City’s efforts.

Currently, senior undergraduate landscape architecture students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst under the direction of Professor Ethan Carr, FASLA and Assistant Professor Theodore Eisenman, PhD, MLA are working on conceptual designs for key sections of the Network as part of their senior capstone project for spring 2018.

 

Teaching Drivers to Be Safer and More Eco-Friendly

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

eco
From KIA motors- This system restricts engine and transmission performance in favor of fuel economy

Real-time feedback to drivers can help them improve their fuel efficiency and safety. The results of a recent UMass Amherst field study on the Effectiveness of Eco-Driving: Real-Time Feedback and Classroom Training, were presented at the 2018 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting, by UMass-Amherst graduate student Tao Jiang.

The presentation summarized an UMass-Amherst study undertaken as part of MassDOT Office of Transportation Planning, Research Section and funded with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) State Planning and Research (SPR) funds. UMass-Amherst Professors, and UMass Transportation Center Research Affiliates, Dr. Daiheng Ni and Dr. Song Gao, oversaw the study. The goal of the project was “to identify and test techniques for modifying driver behavior to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions, and improve safety, in furtherance of the mission and goals of the GreenDOT Implementation Plan.”

Motor vehicles are major contributors to air pollution, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), are responsible for close to half the volatile organic compounds that create smog, more than half the nitrogen oxide emissions, and approximately half of the toxic air pollutant emissions in the U.S.

As discussed in the research report, three major characteristics of driving behaviors to improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and improve safety are:

  • Driving smoothly without much acceleration, idling, or traveling at very low speeds (such as in congested stop-and-go traffic).
  • Anticipating traffic and being vigilant about other vehicles in traffic with you and other drivers’ behaviors.
  • Following speed limits on highways and adjusting speeds as needed for adverse conditions.

The study was conducted with 133 MassDOT-owned vehicles (heavy vehicles excluded) and the employees who drive them.  The study included two types of interventions to modify driver behaviors. The first was the installation of an in-vehicle device that provided real-time feedback, including weekly emails, on each driver’s performance over a two and a half month period. The second was a 1.5-hour classroom training on eco-driving. There were four participant groups:  one that received both interventions, one that received real-time feedback only, one that had the classroom training only, and one that had no intervention. Participants’ driving behaviors were evaluated before the intervention phase, during the intervention phase, and afterward.

Major conclusions from this research were as follows:

  • Real-time feedback had a significant impact in reducing speeding and aggressive acceleration.
  • Combined effects of real-time feedback and classroom training contributed to a 0.89 mile per gallon improvement in fuel economy.

The study recommended that both real-time feedback and training, as well as periodic follow-up and monitoring, will maximize the effectiveness of such eco-driving interventions.

Zipper UP – Lane Merge Design – Part 2

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

merge

The March Innovative Outlook (IO) discussed the first part of a University of Massachusetts (UMass)-Amherst study that evaluated different signage options to encourage more zipper merging when two lanes of traffic are merging into one. Here we discuss the second part of the study, involving testing the first phase results on a full-immersion driving simulator to analyze driver behaviors and decision-making in different scenarios where two lanes are merging into one.

The simulator evaluation was presented briefly at the Road Simulation and Safety Conference in the Netherlands in October 2017, and additional results were shown at the annual Transportation Research Board meeting in Washington, D.C. in January 2018.

Ideally, for zipper merges, similar levels of traffic occupy the left and right lanes approaching the merge. The vehicles from both lanes then take turns moving into the single lane, alternating from the left lane and then from the right lane, vehicle by vehicle, as in the two sides of a zipper coming together. For the first phase of the UMass study, drivers were surveyed about their perceptions and preferences of different road signs for a merge ahead and how they respond as drivers when shown different signs. One of the signs in the study was the W4-2 sign, also known as the “Lane Ends” sign, defined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD); it’s the top sign in the figure. The other signs had been used in previous signage studies conducted by the Federal Highway Administration’s Human Factors Laboratory.

Based on the results of the earlier driver surveys, three different merge signs were used for the simulator part of the study: the standard W4-2 sign, a sign showing an alternative merge graphically, and a sign with “Alternate Merge” in words. There were 12 different scenarios tested on the simulator. In addition to varying the signage between the scenarios, two other variables were changed as well: which lane the driver’s vehicle started in at the beginning of the scenario (left lane or right lane) and the surrounding traffic conditions (vehicles in front of or adjacent to the driver’s vehicle). After the simulator drives, study participants were given a questionnaire regarding their perceptions of the different merge signs.

Not unexpectedly, since the standard merge sign (W4-2) is already in use, the standard merge sign had the strongest results in terms of driver recognition and comprehension. Drivers were found to be most likely to make lane changes upstream of the merge in the simulator scenarios with the standard merge sign. At the same time, however, the questionnaire results indicated that the standard merge sign was the least preferred sign to promote even merging from the left and right lanes. Another result, which differed from the results of the earlier driver surveys, was that the “Alternate Merge” sign with words was no longer among the most preferred signs for promoting even merging. Some participants in the simulator study felt that the “words were harder to process than pictures” and that the sign has confusing wording. The majority of participants preferred the graphic alternative merge sign for promoting even merging.

Two other interesting results were seen across the simulator scenarios: (1) participants were much more likely to switch lanes upstream of the merge intersection when they were following vehicles that had already merged than when they were adjacent to other vehicles, and (2) participants were more likely to switch lanes when their vehicle started in the right lane compared to the left lane. This second finding likely reflects the participants’ familiarity with merging into traffic from the right lane and is influenced too by the standard merge sign currently in use.

Overall, there were no significant changes in driver behavior upstream of the merge intersection.  Still, a graphic alternative merge sign could have promise for encouraging more even, zipper merging, once drivers become more familiar with them. Additional study, potentially including field experiments, is needed to evaluate further the potential of alternative merge signs to improve traffic flow and safety and reduce traffic congestion at merge locations.

For additional information on this simulator study, you can contact graduate student Francis Tainter at ftainter@umass.edu. The simulator study has been accepted for publication in the Transportation Research Record. 

MassDOT Research on Options for ADA Paratransit Services

by Eric Gonzales, Assistant Professor, UMass Amherst, and Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

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Governor Baker (right) at the Ride, Uber and Lyft ADA Paratransit partnership press conference (MassLive)

One of MassDOT’s research project titled “Optimizing ADA Paratransit Operations with Taxi and Ride Share Programs”, had its kick-off meeting in December 2017 and is well underway.  This $152k research project began in December with the project kickoff meeting scheduled for December 14th at MassDOT.   This project is Championed by Ben Schutzman, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s (MBTA) and will be aimed at optimizing programs to serve some paratransit trips by taxi or other mobility services in order to minimize overall system costs.

Rising ridership on Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit services, such as MBTA’s “The Ride”, pose a challenge due to the high costs of operating this required service.  The objective of this project is to optimize programs to serve some paratransit trips by taxi or other mobility services in order to minimize system cost. The benefits to MBTA will be to lower the cost of providing service in order to accommodate the anticipated increase in ridership.  The challenge of managing a demand-response transportation service, for people with disabilities, is the system operation depends on the demand of the traveler behavior and supply structure and costs.  As of March 1, 2017, a pilot program now allows eligible ADA paratransit customers on “The Ride” were able to use taxicabs, Uber, or Lyft for a subsidized trip.  The goal is to provide insights about how the operation and use of the system is changing under the pilot program and then to provide guidance about how to manage a multimodal ADA program that provides users with a greater range of choices than they have had in the past.  Although the scope is tied closely to an analysis of the MBTA system, the insights are likely to have implications for the ADA paratransit systems elsewhere in Massachusetts.  A recent Boston Globe article provides an update to March 2017 pilot study, the increase in demand and some initial cost per ride numbers.

Eric Gonzales, UMass Amherst, the project’s Principal Investigator states “the project will allow us to use modeling tools to analyze how coordinating ADA paratransit services with taxis is changing the experience for customers and costs of the agency.  Our goal is to identify ways to provide cost-effective and high-quality service for customers with disabilities as part of an equitable and sustainable transit system for the Boston region.”

Are Your Lights Iced?

by: Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

Image result for train rail flashing lights

Many highway and rail signals now contain Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). The switch to LEDs was made because of its energy efficiency. However, a one side-effect of this efficiency is that the LED lights don’t give off enough heat to melt snow or ice on their own. This can lead to the lights being obscured during winter conditions which can create potential safety hazards. In 2016, for example, there was a crash in Windsor, Ontario where a school bus entered an intersection against a red light and ran into a car. The bus driver did not see the red light-an LED, because the light was obscured by snow. Fortunately, there were no major injuries during that crash. Early this winter, the Minnesota DOT worked to clean off LED traffic signals after snow obscured signals in the Twin Cities area of the MN Highway 36, leading to at least one serious crash and many near misses.

In 2014, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released a report on LED traffic signal operations in snow conditions which suggested a number of proactive and reactive measures transportation departments can take to keep LED signal lights free from ice and snow. Reactive measures, employed after a snowfall, include manually cleaning the lights or spraying them with antifreeze, deicing spray or compressed air to clean them off. Each of these measures requires personnel to visit and work on each light. Proactive measures include installing signal lens heating elements or lens covers, or spraying deicing spray on the lights before it snows. As documented in the report, such proactive measures have had various degrees of success.

Two current research studies are testing new proactive approaches, both of which involve redesigning the LEDs lights used in traffic signals. Researchers at the University of Kansas have developed and tested self-de-icing LED technology and are now working on creating a full prototype for field testing. . Their approach is to mount the LEDs in the traffic signals “backwards” to harvest the heat generated by the LEDs to heat the light lenses and keep them above freezing. With this system, no additional heating is needed to prevent ice and snow from collecting on the traffic lights. The researchers have estimated that replacing the current LED lights with new LEDs will save about $28 per signal light annually, with a payback time of 4.5 years.

A second research study is looking at developing a super hydrophobic (anti-icing) surface coating for the lenses of traffic signals. The research is being conducted at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and is investigating femtosecond laser surface processing (FLSP) techniques for producing thin (nanoscale) anti-wetting surfaces on hard materials, such as tungsten carbide. Testing is being conducted find the best FLSP-functionalized hard material to use as a durable stamp for imprinting an anti-icing surface on the lenses of traffic signals. This study is scheduled to be completed later this year.

AASHTO’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program Problem Statements…2018!

by: Matt Mann, Research Program Coordinator

Image result for NCHRP

It’s that time of year again when each state Department of Transportation agencies evaluate problem statements for AASHTO’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP).  MassDOT’s Research Section in the Office of Transportation Planning (OTP) will be looking for internal expertise to review and rate the 2018 problem statements.  The 2018 candidate projects include problem statements associated with a variety of subject matter categories including: Administration, Transportation Planning, Transportation Design, Materials & Construction, Maintenance, and Traffic.  Each year, Mass DOT strives to complete the rating of 100% of these proposed NCHRP Problem Statements.

Be on the look-out for the NCHRP problem statements and your involvement is very much appreciated.  Here’s an overview of NCHRP.

Transit Manufacturing Job Facts

by: Melissa Paciulli, Manager of Research

Quantifying transit manufacturing can be relatively simple, when you consider all of the components that are manufactured across the country. T4America  recently published a few facts that make it clear that investing in transit, helps the economy.

  • There are at least 2,763transit component manufacturers in the United States.
  • 91 percent[396 of 435] of congressional districts host at least 1 manufacturer.
  • 98 percent[50 of 51] states + DC are home to at least one manufacturer.

BTS Releases Pocket Guide to Transportation Mobile App

Source: Govdelivery.com

Pocket-Guide-to-Transportation
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2018

“Tuesday, January 9, 2018 – The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has released a new dynamic mobile app for the Pocket Guide to Transportation 2018 – a quick reference guide to transportation statistics. This popular guide provides the latest transportation statistics at your fingertips in mobile app and printed formats.  The app covers data on major trends, moving people and goods, system use and performance, the economy, safety, infrastructure, and the environment. Download the app now to access all the features of the classic Pocket Guide plus enhanced navigation, sharable graphics to social media and email, and dynamic data updates to highlight the most recent up-to-date statistics. The app is available on the App Store and on Google Play (keyword: BTS Pocket Guide). To access the Pocket Guide, go to BTS Pocket Guide to Transportation or text USDOT BTSPG to 468311. This publication can also be obtained by ordering online, by contacting BTS by phone at 202-366-DATA or by e-mail at answers@dot.gov. For inquiries other than placing orders contact Dave Smallen: david.smallen@dot.gov or 202-366-5568. ”

New Federal Committee on Motorcycle Safety Holds First Meeting

by Tracy Zafian, Research Fellow

motocycle

Last month, the Motorcycle Advisory Committee (MAC) held its initial meeting in Arlington, VA. This federal committee was created to advise the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on motorcycle safety and to identify engineering-related infrastructure solutions for reducing motorcyclist fatalities.

There were 5,286 roadway fatalities nationally involving motorcycles in 2016, an increase of 5% from the previous year. In Massachusetts, 40 motorcyclist fatalities were reported during the same year.

As described on transportation.gov, “the MAC consists of ten members selected by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. [The members] come from across the country and are experts in a wide range of motorcycle-infrastructure topics. Each is a motorcyclist and, combined, the MAC members have over two centuries of riding experience.”

At the first MAC meeting, there were substantial discussions on many infrastructure issues, including work zones, roundabouts, roadside hardware, roadway maintenance practices, the potential consequences of automated vehicles and crash testing, among others. At upcoming meetings, the MAC will determine how to advise FHWA on these issues. For its part, FHWA has research underway to identify key infrastructure-based safety issues for motorcyclists. The centerpiece of this work is the FHWA’s Motorcycle Crash Causation Study. According to the study web site, “The Motorcycle Crash Causation Study is the most comprehensive data collection effort to study the causes of U.S. motorcycle crashes in more than 30 years. The dataset includes data from at least 351 crash investigations, and 702 control rider interviews.”

A couple of current safety features on motorcycles to prevent future fatalities include: new breaking lights and the required anti-lock brake feature. The break light feature is the first wearable brake light connected to a smart phone app.  The anti-lock brake feature has been an option on motorcycles for years, but it may soon become a requirement based on the safety advantages.

In addition to technology and infrastructure improvements for motorcycle safety, some changes in how motorcyclists are trained may be warranted as well. Researchers at UMass-Amherst, led by now Ph.D. graduate Jeffrey Muttart, have conducted field studies on motorcyclist eye glance and driving behavior, including studies where participants went through the same on-road course as car drivers and as motorcyclists. Key findings in one study were that motorcyclists were less likely to come to a complete stop at a stop sign than car drivers, and that study participants made later final glances toward the direction of the most threatening traffic before they made a turn when they were driving a car than when they were riding a motorcycle.