We travel a lot and want to arrive safely. But, we can never take safety for granted: There are many risks and hazards that arise from road users as much as from the infrastructure. Future-orientated planning that takes real-time information into account can improve road safety in the long term.
When planning and optimising the infrastructure, road safety has not always been the top priority to date. Even in sustainable urban traffic projects, for initiatives to expand public transport and cycle routes, the focus tends to be on evaluating travel times, air quality or easy access rather than on safety. However, more than a million people worldwide die each year as a result of road traffic crashes. Reducing global road deaths by 2020 is the aim of the United Nations, which launched a ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety’ in 2011. The European Charter for Road Safety is pursuing the same goal. To date over 2,300 public and private organisations, including the PTV Group, have committed themselves to the charter and conducted activities and initiatives.
Now, it is important to set clear objectives to reduce fatal accidents and collect data to check the progress that has been made. This is also recommended by the organisation EMBARQ in their report called “Saving Lives with Sustainable Transport”. The organisation is committed to implementing sustainable traffic solutions globally and improving the quality of life in cities.
Sustainability with consequences
In recent years, many cities have invested in cycling and attempted to move people to bikes or public transport. For example in London where the congestion charge helps to reduce the volume of traffic. A study by Transport for London (TfL), the umbrella organisation that has been coordinating London’s traffic system since 2001, shows that accidents fell particularly strongly in zones covered by the congestion charge. This is related to such matters as the lower traffic volume. It was not that the numbers of people travelling fell, rather private and public transport were better utilised.
If the use of public transport buses increases, additional lanes must be reserved for them. And more cyclists mean it is necessary to expand cycle routes and provide additional cycle lanes on roads. This leaves less space on the road for cars and lorries. Additional purchases over the internet mean higher numbers of delivery vehicles in cities and an increase in the number of accidents involving lorries and cyclists. Such is the case in London. We need cities that are worth living in and that are equally attractive for trade and inhabitants, while ensuring smooth transportation for deliveries and disposals – a balancing act for planning.
Added-value in real time
The integration of real-time information creates completely new options for planning and optimisation. The more up-to-date the information and the more information available for the real traffic situation, the more targeted the control and management of the traffic will be. Floating Car Data (FCD), automatic license plate detection, detector data, road accident or roadwork alerts – by means of PTV Optima all these data records can be collected, matched, validated, merged and used for correcting the simulation. Thanks to the model-based approach, data can also be completed for routes on which no detector data or FCD are available. Moreover, the software provides reliable forecasts for the next 60 minutes. In the event of a traffic jam, the traffic management centre can react quickly in order to ease congestion and smooth the flow of traffic, so that drivers are able to continue their journey safely. The software has proven its ability to deliver value to the 5T’s traffic management centre in the Piedmont Region, Italy.
“Real-time information should also be integrated into trip planning and navigation of commercial fleet operators. Information on current traffic conditions combined with driving time optimization and additional lorry-specific features that are taken into account when planning and implementing a tour, make transport logistics more flexible and competitive. Drivers, head office and customers are informed in good time about any delays and the occupancy of loading ramps can also be planned much better,” explains Matthias Hormuth, Director Logistics Concepts & Solutions at PTV.
Improved global safety
Safety must be increased, especially for road users who have less protection, i.e. pedestrians and cyclists. But before targeted measures can be undertaken, accident data must first be analysed. PTV has been involved in road safety work for many years now. Its electronic road accident map Euska, for instance, is used for road safety work by police forces in eleven federal states in Germany.
PTV now even goes one step further and combines transport planning and road safety as part of an innovative approach: With PTV Visum Safety, transport planners are able to analyse accident data and to use these results for their planning work in order to optimize road safety. This affects both the macro level, with the safety analysis of road networks, and the micro level of local accident investigation. “We are taking an active role in the development of software that involves road safety more strongly into traffic forecasting as part of strategic traffic planning. To this end, we pursue an internationally accepted method using PTV Visum Safety, and we are involved in dynamic global collaborations with experts from around the world,” says Andre Münch, Director PTV Safety.
More safety through software
PTV software, such as PTV Viswalk for pedestrian simulation or the traffic model Validate, has been used in numerous projects, including evacuation scenarios for railway stations, airports and major events as well as analysis and protection of critical tunnels and bridges.
In developed countries, transport planning projects mainly deal with the issue of how to use the current infrastructure more effectively. But today, it is becoming increasingly important to inject fresh ideas into how to make our roads safer for everybody. This was the case at the Eelup roundabout located at the northern entrance to Bunbury in Western Australia. With about 40,000 vehicles passing through there every day, it had the State’s worst crash rate. Even though most of the accidents were minor, the total cost added up to several million Australian dollars a year. At this first signalised roundabout in Western Australia, the queue lengths and journey times have improved dramatically and the number of accidents has been significantly reduced: where there were 150 crashes a year, there are now less than 50. This complex signalized roundabout was modelled in PTV Vissim.
“Due to our experience and expertise in the field of motorization and road safety in developed countries, we can also support emerging countries in coping with the rapidly growing motorization,” says Vincent Kobesen, CEO of the PTV Group. To this end, PTV is also actively involved in policy processes and engaged in dialogue on traffic-related issues with the World Bank, the OECD, the ITDP and EMBARQ. After all, one thing is certain: traffic management, politics, urban planning, transport planning and road operators must work more closely with each other in the future to significantly increase road safety.