Have you ever stopped to think about the highway safety features we see each and every day? Road and highway safety continues to be a priority across the United States. In 2019 (the latest year available), the government allocated over $4.4 billionto safety improvement projects alone.
Here is a look at five highway safety features we all likely pass by on a daily basis. While we may not pay them much notice, they do a ton to keep us and other drivers safe.
1. Highways Have Wider Lanes than Roads
Highways are typically wider than other roads. The federal standard for highways is 12 feet according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. The wider lanes are designed to give vehicles a little more space, which generally is considered safer. The more space you have between vehicles, the more space you have to maneuver and pass.
Another characteristic of highways is to have clear markings. The markings show the flow of traffic and keep cars heading in the right direction.
2. Rumble Strips Keep Drivers Awake
If you've ever been driving and accidentally drifted too close to the emergency lane, then chances are you're familiar with the rumble strip. These strips are raised or grooved patterns found in between the side of highways and the edge of the shoulder. When your tire comes in contact with one of the strips, it makes a sudden rumbling and vibrating sound. It's meant to quickly alert a drowsy or distracted driver that they're drifting too far over off the road.
3. Guardrails Prevent Serious Crashes
Guardrails may seem like a scary prospect if your vehicle happens to strike one. But guardrails were specifically designed with maximum safety in mind. When a vehicle strikes a guardrail, the design of the guardrail is meant to bring the vehicle to a complete stop. The force of the vehicle hitting the rails shears the wooden posts, and the rails split away from the traffic right-of-way. Guardrails were placed on federal highways as a way to absorb some of the energy from a vehicle crash and lessen the severity.
4. Median Barriers Reduce Head-on Collisions
You may have noticed median barriers before. They are either made of concrete, metal beams, or cable. Different materials are used depending on the slope of the highway, the space available, and the amount of maintenance required.
Median barriers are meant to keep vehicles from crossing into the other lane of oncoming traffic. When median barriers are in place on the federal highways, studies have shown they reduce cross-median crashes by 97%. This is a significant reduction, which means a smaller chance of deadly head-on collisions, too.
5. Breakaway Sign Posts Reduce Windshield Hits
Breakaway sign posts are signs that literally break away when impacted. For example, if a car strikes a sign post, then the breakaway posts are engineered to fall a certain way, instead of striking the windshield or the roof of the car. Breakaway posts are made of a support post and an anchoring post, which allows it to break into pieces and lessen the overall damage to the car and people.
The Best Safety Feature? Your Driving Skills
Safe driving starts with highway safety features like these, but it also depends on safe drivers. Brush up on your own driving skills and learn the rules of the road at Driver's Ed with our traffic school courses.