By Victoria Chilinski (CLAS ’16)
With funding from the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT), the Connecticut Technology Transfer (T2) Center at the University of Connecticut launched the Connecticut Safety Circuit Rider (SCR) Program on November 1st. The T2 Center is an educational outreach program within the School of Engineering’s Connecticut Transportation Institute (CTI).
Safety Circuit Riders aim to assist individual towns to identify high accident rate locations and low-cost, effective solutions. According to the Federal Highway Administration, SCRs can provide hands-on technical assistance to local officials, thereby implementing safety measures to mitigate safety problems and ultimately save lives and the loss of property.
“There’s really no acceptable level of fatalities or injuries in roadway crashes,” says Donna Shea, program director of the Connecticut T2 Center, “and our goal is to try to understand how we can help with that, how we can reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on local roads.”
A UConn traffic engineer will be hired to take on the role of the “safety circuit rider” and will assist towns in developing and implementing local road safety plans. This engineer will work in the field with each town that is interested in developing strategies to improve local road safety. They will collect and analyze crash data through a partnership with CTI’s new Connecticut Transportation Safety Research Center (CTSRC), and use their findings to recommend safety countermeasures.
“For example, let’s say that you’re driving around and approach a sharp curve,” explains Shea, “and you think to yourself, ‘wow, at nighttime, that could be really scary – I can’t see where I’m going.’ In that case, the Safety Circuit Rider could provide recommendations to the local agency of ways to improve visibility, possibly curve warning signs that would help you navigate in the correct direction. Improving safety does not always require major changes in road design. There are many low-cost solutions to making them safer.”
Ed Kant, who serves as the South Florida Safety Circuit Rider, shares similar sentiments in his statement to the Federal Highway Administration regarding the program. “Many of the situations encountered by a SCR can be enhanced through simple measures such as improving signs and pavement markings or trimming trees to improve sight distance,” he writes.
Connecticut’s SCR program will be the 20th such program in the country. Shea expects that more SCR programs will soon be implemented nationwide due to the release of a nationally developed Safety Circuit Rider Program Best Practices Guide, in which she is acknowledged for contributions and insights. “We can build upon the successes coming out of other states,” she says.
For Shea, the deployment of this program is a great victory. “I have wanted this for 15 years,” she says. It was one of those great ideas that didn’t have a home, but this year, the dominos just started to drop into place and I feel like we’re really going to do something that will really make a difference. “