Highway Safety Features To Keep You Alive: Highway Driving RulesUpdated Aug. 8, 2020
Many highly effective safety features have been implemented on interstate highways around the country over the past few decades. These features are designed to cut back on collisions, reduce off-the-road crashes and minimize annual highway fatalities by making the crashes that do occur less severe. Thanks to the improvements made under the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), United States highways are now among the safest roads in the world.
Clear guide signs
While you may not consider guide signs to be a “safety” feature, they are influential in reducing accidents. A federal standard ensures that all highway guide signs are clear, easily understood and appropriately positioned. Planning is the key to safe highway driving! Guide signs allow drivers to identify their destinations, prepare to exit the highway and merge into the appropriate lane in good time.
Highways are also equipped with electronic message signs to inform drivers of adverse roadway conditions, accidents and detours which may present a hazard.
Highways are built with wider lanes than other roads. This allows drivers a little extra breathing space and means traveling at high speed is safe, even when the road is busy. Generally speaking, the more space you can create around your vehicle the safer you will be.
Protected merge lanes
Some highway interchanges use protected merging lanes which afford drivers additional protection from other traffic, when entering and exiting the road.
Opposing traffic is separated by a central barrier on most expressways. The barrier serves to prevent motorists crossing the central divide and minimizes the likelihood of head-on collisions occurring. Central barriers are usually made from solid concrete or a metal cable, the latter of which has been proven more effective in reducing crash severity and is now being more widely introduced.
Guard rails are used to line the outside edge of the highway, to prevent drivers leaving the road if vehicle control is lost. This safety feature is particularly prevalent on mountainous stretches of highway where there is no shoulder edging the road. Guard rails play a major role in preventing highway fatalities. They are designed to absorb impact and bring vehicles to a safe stop without endangering other traffic on the roadway.
Roadway bridges are designed to endure extreme weight caused by high volumes of traffic. Advanced supports, barriers and other safety features are used and regularly maintained to guarantee public safety. Most states conduct annual inspections and maintenance checks on all bridges, ensuring structural issues are identified and fixed before they become dangerous.
Breakaway signs and posts
All freeway signs must be fitted with breakaway posts. If a vehicle collides with a breakaway sign post, impact to the vehicle and its occupants is less severe than it would be with a standard sign post. As the name suggests, breakaway posts are designed so that the main part of the sign “breaks away” and travels over the colliding vehicle.
Raised rumble strips
Rumble strips are designed to alert drivers who are fatigued or may have momentarily dozed off at the wheel. They are tightly-packed rows of circular or V-shaped grooves, pressed into the pavement when the asphalt was set. Rumble strips line the central barrier and the outer shoulder of highways.
If a fatigued driver accidentally meanders out of their lane and across a rumble strip, a loud vibrating sound will startle them back to a more alert state. These safety devices are incredibly effective at reducing off-the-road crashes and head-on collisions.
Road barriers which may cause injury when struck are often lined with a row of sand or liquid-filled drums for added safety. Any collisions involving the barrier will be less severe, as the initial impact is largely absorbed by the safety drums.
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