Road design principles are evolving and controversy sometimes exists surrounding the best ways to prevent motor vehicle collisions through effective design. The "forgiving highway" approach to traffic design rests on the theory that it is safer for roads to be wider in order to "forgive" mistakes drivers may make on roads. A wider area allows smoother redirects for cars after vehicles go off the road and allows for vehicle straying off road to have a clear zone to come to a controlled stop.
While wide road may leave more room for cars to react to accidents, an experienced pedestrian accident attorney knows wide roads also have unintended consequences, which have an adverse impact on safety. Pedestrians and other motorists may be at greater risk of being hurt or killed when streets are too wide.
Wide Roads Can Increase Pedestrian Collision Risks
Streets Blog reports American cities have embraced the "forgiving highway" approach, resulting in cities throughout the U.S. being "cross-crossed by streets with 12-foot wide lanes." Studies are now suggesting this may not be the best approach to public safety and dangers may exist both for both walkers and people in vehicles.
Wide roads take longer for pedestrians to cross the street, meaning a greater danger of drivers failing to yield the right-of-way. Pedestrians may face more difficulties judging when they can safely cross a wide road and drivers may not be able to clearly see pedestrians on opposite sides of roadways.
Wide lanes leave less room for bicycle riders, forcing them into pedestrian areas. Wide lanes also leave less room for pedestrians waiting for buses, and can reduce space available for sidewalks and road shoulders where pedestrians can walk safely.
City Lab points to other problems with wide roads, including the risk motorists will speed up and go faster when lanes are wider.
People react to their environment and drive at the speed at which they feel safe, even if this is higher than the speed limit. Wider roads make drivers feel more comfortable operating their vehicles at higher speeds. The effect on pedestrians is devastating. A pedestrian struck by a car going 30 MPH is seven to 10 times more likely to be killed than if the pedestrian was hit by a car going 20 MPH.
Because the upward fatality curve is so sharp, every single mile a person exceeds the speed limit has a major impact on pedestrian death rates. Wider roads resulting in faster moving vehicles can significantly increase fatal accident risks for walkers.
When lanes are 10 feet wide, as compared with 12 feet wide, drivers tend to be slower and pedestrians safer because of fewer speeding drivers and less width to cover when crossing.