The Road Safety Roundabout – Designing to Save Lives Part 1

As we examine how to reduce Australia’s road toll and reverse the increase in road fatalities we have seen over the last few years; it’s only natural that we also examine how road infrastructure is designed.

When we look back at the history of road safety design initiatives, many of the advancements we take for granted and treat as common were groundbreaking innovations: cat eyes, standardised signals and signs, roundabouts, and guard rails all seem logical and sensible today, and we’ve benefitted from their impact.

However, it could be argued that those changes were made mainly for drivers, not necessarily for other road users. This is logical; with the growth of mass motoring, motorists were involved in fatalities and at a rapidly growing rate as motoring was new, accessible, affordable and rapidly growing, with limited experience, less sophisticated training and fewer in vehicle safety measures compared to today.

Therefore, perhaps the most important change we have seen that helped reduce the number of deaths on Australian roads is the move to make road design not just centred on vehicles but also for the greater safety of all users, particularly pedestrians and passengers.

For Vehicles

For drivers, the biggest improvements in road safety design have included:

  • Standardized Road Signs and Signals
  • Separation of Traffic Flows
  • Wider Lanes and Shoulders
  • Improved Road Surfaces
  • Intersection Improvements
  • Introduction of Roundabouts
  • Road Safety Barrier Systems
  • Improved Street Lighting

For Active Transport Users

For road users, the biggest improvements in road safety include:

  • Protected Bike Lanes
  • Pedestrian Crossings and Signals
  • Sidewalks and Footpaths
  • Pedestrian Refuge Islands
  • Raised Crossings and Speed Humps
  • Pedestrian Overpasses and Underpasses
  • Traffic Calming Measures
  • Accessible Facilities for disabled users
  • Clear Sightlines and Visibility Enhancements

There is no doubt that all of the above measures have helped reduce the road deaths in Australia, but with fatalities growing, there is more that can be done to use design to improve safety for all road users.

“Design has to play a role in creating safer roads for Australians,” says Civil Project Partners’ Ryan O’Neill. Separating traffic, improved lighting, real-time alerts and warnings, materials, intersection design, and barrier technology will all play their part.”

“When we analyse options for road design, the safety of all road users is a key priority for any project, and in most cases, that involves designing solutions that minimise the points of potential conflict between road users of different types.”

“Designing future and safety-focused solutions is far easier for new road projects, major highway infrastructure, or projects with a specific safety intent, such as the amazing work done by the Level Crossing Removal Project in Melbourne. But Australia’s challenge is how we retrofit safety solutions and new ways of thinking to the countless existing urban, suburban, and rural road networks.”

‘It’s almost impossible to upgrade every potential risk point to minimise risk, not just because of the sheer scale of the task but also due to the financial burden it would have on federal, state and local governments. So, while there should be a priority approach to addressing key safety challenges, we must also look at what can be done to support road safety design through technology, clever solutions and a different way of thinking,” said Ryan.


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