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UW-Milwaukee research aiming to make state's roads safer

Ongoing research at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's School of Architecture and Urban Planning hopes to incorporate crash data into recommendations that can turn the tide of fatal pedestrian, bicycle and auto accidents across the state.

Researcher Bob Schneider, an urban planner himself, has for the past three years been collecting data about fatal and injury-causing auto-involved accidents around the state and compiling that data into possible action items for the urban planners, architects, law enforcement officials and legislators tasked with both keeping the streets safe for all users and encouraging municipal development.

Fatal crashes on the rise

Schneider says that preliminary accident data shows that 2015 was a deadly year on the state's roads: statewide traffic fatalities were up for all categories, including vehicle occupants, pedestrians and bicyclists. The research has shown that the increase in fatal accidents has a number of different causes, including:

  • Multi-lane roads in urban areas (more traffic usually means more crashes)
  • Higher speed limits (the higher the speed, the more serious the injuries are when accidents occur)
  • Intoxicated drivers
  • Failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks

Changes can be made to make the roads safer

Though the fatal accident rate may have risen for 2015, it doesn't mean that the trend has to continue. This research has shown that there are possible solutions that can be implemented that could make Wisconsin's roads safer for all users. These include:

  • Stricter enforcement of speeding, failure to yield and drunk driving violations, particularly in areas of high pedestrian and bicycle traffic
  • Urban/city planning schemes which incorporate increased curb extensions and sidewalks for pedestrians as well as dedicated bicycle lanes
  • Clearly marking crosswalks to make pedestrians more visible, and enforcing penalties against those who fail to yield to pedestrians in them
  • Improved lighting, particularly in urban areas, to make pedestrians and bicyclists more visible to vehicles at night
  • Public education campaigns about the relative rights and responsibilities of all who share the road (drivers, walkers and bicycle riders alike) and the importance of not driving while distracted or impaired

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