Delaware Center for Transportation engineers recognized for work to improve traffic safety

Highway safety has become a complex issue in an era when roads built primarily for cars are now being shared by increasing numbers of pedestrians, cyclists, and skateboarders.

“It’s time to throw away the rule book because the safety equation has gotten really complex,” says Rusty Lee, director of advanced traffic operations for the Delaware Center for Transportation (DCT). “We want people out walking and biking, but now we have to figure out to keep everyone safe, and that’s going to require taking a new look at the entire system.”

Lee and Matheu Carter, an engineer and circuit rider with the Technology Transfer (T2) Center housed within DCT at the University of Delaware, were recently recognized with safety coins issued by the Federal Highway Administration Safety and Design Technical Service Team.

Lee was recognized for his efforts serving on the Every Day Counts 3 Data Driven Safety Analysis (EDC-3 DDSA) Team.

EDC3 is the third round of a program called Every Day Counts, which features 11 technologies and practices that can shorten the project delivery process, enhance durability and safety, and improve environmental sustainability. The focus is on providing efficiency through technology and collaboration.

“Rusty’s professional and academic experience was valuable in providing critical information that helped the development and deployment of the EDC-3 DDSA program,” says FHWA safety engineer John McFadden.

Carter was recognized for his efforts in rebuilding the Low-Cost Safety Improvement Workshop, which was developed in 2004 to provide information for local and state transportation agencies on a variety of traffic safety problems and remedies to address them.

“The workshop material was completely reviewed and updated in a year-long effort and then piloted in Delaware in 2016,” McFadden says.

Carter emphasizes that the appreciation he and Lee received for their work actually goes two ways.

“The FHWA Resource Center has brought tremendous assets to transportation agencies here in Delaware,” he says. “We’re a very small state, so we can do things here that are more challenging in larger states.”

“At the same time, for the past three or four years, Delaware has been first in the nation for pedestrian fatalities per capita,” he adds. “That’s not a No. 1 statistic that we want to brag about, so we’re doing everything we can to work with agencies and communities to change that number.”

For Carter, FHWA’s Low-Cost Safety Improvement Workshop represents a wealth of “low-hanging fruit” — for example, simple signage and vegetation trimming — that can be plucked for relatively big payoffs.

Lee sees safety as sitting at the convergence of law, research, and common sense, which can make it a challenging issue to address in the real world.

“We’re also struggling with the social dynamic of human behavior, but we’re trying to do that from the perspective of people trained as engineers,” he says. “We need to stop creating administrative checklists and start coming up with ideas that can be implemented tomorrow and have an immediate impact.”

About the T2 Center

The T2 Center was formerly within DelDOT and is now part of the Delaware Center for Transportation. The T2 program organizes annual workshops for transportation providers, offers technical assistance with transportation issues via a “circuit rider” who visits Delaware’s towns and cities, and distributes research and other reports from universities and government agencies.

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