Category Archives: Traffic and Safety

Effect of Real-Time Winter Road Condition Messages on Driver Behavior

To help make roads as safe as possible in winter, MnDOT uses dynamic message signs (DMS) to display weather advisories to drivers. Using DMS to display real-time road condition information could further enhance safety by potentially resulting in reduced driving speeds and safer following distances. Roadside pavement sensors can provide real-time road condition data for these warning messages, alerting drivers to conditions ahead.

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How Did COVID-19 Affect Driver Safety?

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in fewer drivers on Minnesota’s roads in 2020 than in the previous year. Emptier roadways seem like they should be safer, but many states measured increases in speeding. For example, California issued twice as many speeding tickets, Iowa reported a 65% increase in driving 25 mph or more over the speed limit, and Ohio experienced the highest number of traffic fatalities since 2007. Clearly, some drivers were taking advantage of empty streets to speed. The pandemic also strained police forces, resulting in less enforcement.

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Affordable Lane-Departure Warning System is on the Road to Market Readiness

This article was originally published in Catalyst, November 2021.

With the improvements made to their lane-departure warning system, U of M researchers are one step closer to preventing highway crashes and deaths. In a recent project, the research team enhanced its lane-departure warning system, which uses standard GPS data rather than expensive cameras or maps—moving toward an affordable, market-ready product to warn drivers about dangerous lane drift due to drowsiness or inattention.

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New Project: Performance Evaluation of Detection Technologies for Signalized Intersections in Minnesota

Intersections can be controlled through pretimed systems or vehicle-actuated systems, which detect the presence of a vehicle. Good vehicle detection is the foundation of actuated systems. While loop detectors have been effective workhorses of vehicle detection for MnDOT, changes in vehicle fleets—for example, the use of nonferrous materials—and an increased need to detect vulnerable road users has resulted in an increased use of nonintrusive detection technologies (NIT).

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New Project: Mobile-Device Data, Non-Motorized Traffic Monitoring, and Estimation of Annual Average Daily Bicyclist and Pedestrian Flows

Understanding pedestrian and bicyclist flows is vital to distributing a limited construction budget to new infrastructure for improved safety on specific roads. Unfortunately, statewide data collection for active transportation flows is challenging.

MnDOT and local agencies historically have lacked estimates of bicycle and pedestrian traffic on Trunk Highways and County State Aid Highways.

Since about 2016, MnDOT has begun monitoring bicycle and pedestrian flow at more than 25 locations across the state, but, given the small number of counters and the variability of flows in response to variations in weather across Minnesota, these monitoring data are insufficient for estimation of Annual Average Daily Bicyclists and Annual Average Daily Pedestrians.

One option for obtaining travel data without expensive infrastructure is relying on mobile data collection.

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Improved In-Vehicle Lane Departure Warning System Approaches Commercial Use

Using an earlier lane departure warning system (LDWS) that employs standard GPS data rather than expensive cameras or maps, Minnesota researchers have enhanced and refined the system, moving closer to an affordable product to warn drivers about dangerous lane drift and approaching curves. 

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MnDOT Prepares to Use Future Vehicle-to-Vehicle Messaging

Manufacturers are developing vehicles that can “talk” to each other. “Connected vehicles” will be able to convey their position, speed and acceleration. Sending this information to other vehicles and relevant infrastructure is expected to enhance highway safety, but it also may help transportation agencies better manage traffic.

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New Project: COVID-19 Impacts on Speed and Safety for Rural Roads and Work Zones

Although Minnesotans drove significantly less in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a substantial increase in fatal motor vehicle crashes.  MnDOT Traffic Safety Engineer Derek Leuer and his colleagues want to know why, particularly in rural areas where fatalities and injury rates were higher. 

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