Some readers of our New Orleans personal injury blog will undoubtedly recall that three years ago, the city installed bollards as part of the reconstruction of the blocks of Bourbon Street that extend from Canal Street to St. Louis Street. The metal poles were installed to prevent vehicle attacks against pedestrians in the French Quarter.
A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that if cities installed brightly colored metal bollards in intersections around the U.S., pedestrian accidents could be substantially reduced. According to the organization, more than half of all crashes happen in intersections, and that in 2018, vehicle-on-pedestrian collisions resulted in “more than 6,700 serious injuries and more than 1,500 pedestrian deaths.”
The IIHS also noted that more than a third of pedestrian accidents happened when the vehicle was making a left turn.
Safer left turns
The IIHS says installation of the typically yellow or orange bollards in intersections is part of a pedestrian protection strategy known as centerline hardening – an intersection design that forces drivers to make slower, more nearly right-angle turns at intersections. The purpose of centerline hardening is to prevent drivers from cutting diagonally through intersections – especially when making left turns.
The infrastructure design results in a 70 percent reduction in the frequency of drivers swerving or braking suddenly to try to avoid pedestrians. It has a similar effect on the number of times pedestrians have to dodge vehicles going diagonally through intersections.
According to the study, centerline hardening also reduces left-turn speeds, decreasing the likelihood of drivers exceeding 15 mph when turning left.
On the rise
In the decade from 2009 to 2018, pedestrian fatalities rose 53 percent, accounting for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide.
Some cities are taking steps to reduce the risks to people walking. New York City made centerline hardening changes at more than 300 intersections in the past five years, while Washington DC plans to fix 85 of its intersections by the end of the year.
Of course, not all vehicle-on-pedestrian collisions are the result of drivers cutting through intersections diagonally – many are the result of distracted or impaired driving.
IIHS Senior Research Transportation Engineer Wen Hu said the “study suggests that simple infrastructure changes can deliver big benefits.”