Copyright © 2001 by Kim Sorvig, reproduction of one copy for personal use only is permitted Robert Noland's Paper--a Summary by Kim Sorvig ~ New Research on Lane Width and Fatalities
Paper: [New title] "Traffic Fatalities and Injuries: The Effect of Changes In Infrastructure and Other Trends", by Dr. Robert B. Noland, 28 pp; presented at the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, January, 2001 and published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention (2003).
The most compelling of these new sources of evidence is research completed just last year by Dr. Robert B. Noland, and presented at the Transportation Research Board's annual meeting. This research used comprehensive DOT/FHWA statistics from ALL 50 US STATES, covering a 14-year period up to 1996. Unlike previous studies, Noland's data provided the necessary detail to distinguish serious/fatal accidents from injuries, and to distinguish limited-access, arterial, and collector road types. Dr. Noland's research includes a complete literature review of previous studies, and is clearly the most detailed and statistically-sophisticated study ever done of US traffic safety. (Noland is currently Professor and Director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University; see full report posted here.
Citation to this Version:
Noland, Robert B. (2003). Traffic Fatalities and Injuries: The Effect of Changes in Infrastructure and Other Trends. Accident Analysis & Prevention 35(4), 599-611. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.7282/T3736T9J
To quote Noland, his research results "STRONGLY REFUTE THE HYPOTHESIS THAT ENGINEERING DESIGN IMPROVEMENTS HAVE BEEN BENEFICIAL FOR REDUCING TOTAL FATALITIES AND INJURIES," AND "STRONGLY SUGGESTS THAT WIDENING LANES TO 12 FEET WILL ACTUALLY MAKE ROADS LESS SAFE."
Unlike previous papers, Noland's is not a localized study or one reflecting unusual roadway types. It is specific to collectors, [the classification given to NM 14], and it applies to all roads of this category throughout the US. Noland states bluntly, "AS MORE ARTERIAL AND COLLECTOR LANE WIDTHS ARE INCREASED UP TO 12 FT OR MORE, TRAFFIC FATALITIES AND INJURIES INCREASE.... THESE RESULTS ARE QUITE STUNNING AS IT IS GENERAL PRACTICE TO 'IMPROVE' THE SAFETY OF ROADS BY INCREASING LANE WIDTHS."
Most of us are aware that there has been an actual decrease in fatalities during the past decade, which conventional thinking has ascribed to the 'improvement' of highways. However, Noland shows that other factors have masked the increasing danger of 'improved' highways. The overall decrease in fatalities, he proves quite clearly, is due NOT to wider, straighter roads, but to demographic changes (a lower percentage of 15-24 year old drivers), seatbelt use and other improved driver behavior, and improved medical technology allowing more injured drivers to survive.
Noland points out that federal HERS criteria (for forecasting highway construction requirements) enshrine the false assumption that wider is safer. He also states quite definitely that if the current 'improved' standards had been implemented in 1985, some 2,000 MORE deaths and at least 300,000 MORE injuries would have occurred. Fully HALF of the extra, unnecessary deaths and injuries Noland traces DIRECTLY to 12-foot lane widths on collectors and arterials (i.e., non-limited-access highways).
To NM14 Construction Design and Liability, a brief by the NM Environmental Law Center