Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death in Americans under 25. Our once mighty network of roads is crumbling and collapsing. What to do? Jalopnik readers have ten proposals for repairing our nation's infrastructure.
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The United States has a truly massive roadway system that is frankly amazing. These mightily impressive roads, though, are constantly congested, blocked up with distracted drivers, traffic jams, and an endless stream of accidents. Two statistics point to fundamental problems with our roads, and we think we can fix them. Well, our ideas and a shit ton of federal funding.
The NHTSA collects data on all the reported crashes in the country and in their 2010 report they note that 1,679,000 crashes were just single-vehicle crashes. Americans are straight up driving into trees. Sixty percent of fatal crashes are single-vehicle crashes, the report goes on to say.
Of course, there were significantly more multiple-vehicle crashes at 3,740,000. These were mostly non-injury, property-damage-only crashes on the highway. Seventy percent of property-damage-only crashes involved multiple vehicles.
There are many ways to view this data, but the single-vehicle crashes indicate many drivers are distracted, inattentive, and poorly trained. Multiple-vehicle crashes are also influenced by these issues, but highway design also plays into it.
How to make roads better? Improve the quality/design and make the people on them better drivers. For these two goals we have ten proposals from our readers. All we need is to round up a few billion in funds and get some congressmen on our side. Maybe we should take them for burnouts in a CTS-V. That should put them in our pocket.
If there's anything you think we forgot, or if you think the gas tax is such a crock of shit you can't believe we'd put it on this site, feel free to scream at us in Kinja below.
Photo Credit: Höweler + Yoon
American drivers are pretty awful, but they're not exactly helped by the highways they drive on. There's a lot we could do for driver safety just by improving the flow on highways. We have two suggestions:
Lengthen highway weave areas: this is when you have an on ramp just before an off ramp. It means you have drivers crossing lanes in both directions. These areas need to be lengthened significantly, because they are a shit show.
Install more diverging diamond interchanges: we have already covered how these things work, but they eliminate the need to make a left turn across traffic when you're near a highway on or off ramp.
Americans don't understand rotary intersections because we're not familiar with them. They're safer than four-way intersections, and they keep the flow of traffic going more smoothly. Us Americans just need more practice on them.
The rest of the world has realized that it's a good idea to have nice, clean, and sizeable service stations right off the highway. They mean you can slip off the highway and get gas and a meal without ever having to stop at a light, or clog up surface streets.
The United States moved west with trains, and we have the infrastructure to deliver more freight long distances on rail. The goal is to make huge 18-wheelers responsible for more short-range trips rather than long hauls, which not only slow traffic but pulverize roads to oblivion.
Reader wagnerrp puts forward an interesting proposal of automating trains in train yards, allowing individual cars to break apart and re-connect with other trains. This would let trains follow efficient routing protocols, like the ones used in computer networks. This kind of automation would be massively expensive, but it would give the country a much faster and cheaper rail system.
We only advocate pulling over drivers who cruise in the passing lane because we don't have enough bazookas to just blow them all to smithereens.
The more people we have riding public transit, the fewer cars we have on the roads. The fewer cars we have on the roads, the better the roads work. How do we get more people riding public transit? It's simple; add more routes.
The United States is huge and a big portion of our country is just wide, flat, empty space. This means we have long, straight, empty roads with the same speed limits as clogged urban expressways. Speed limits need to reflect the safe speed for the road. We need American Autobahns.
American roads are broken, crumbling pieces of crap and slapping some filler over potholes every once in a while is not working. As we have explained in the past, the problem is that we cut costs at the start of the design process. Before we even call in contractors, we need to force states to raise the standards on building new roads.
Fly them all to Germany even, just to show them how amazing it is to build roads with deeper, stronger foundations and better materials.
These proposals need funding and we propose a gas tax. Nobody likes the short-term consequences of putting another 50 cents or a dollar on a gallon of gas, that's why no politicians ever vote for it, but these pale in comparison to the long-term consequences of letting our roads go to shit. As you can read in this op-ed, a gas tax saves the taxpayers money in the long run and keeps our country mobile. It's not a pretty solution, but it's a good one.
The biggest problem with our roads isn't even the roads themselves, it's the drivers. Remember, this is a country where the majority of fatal car crashes are single-vehicle incidents. We need to fix the people behind the wheel and here's what we'd do.
Tiered licenses: want to drive just around town? Fine, take a regular test. Want to drive a five-thousand pound SUV at 70 miles an hour down a crowded freeway? You're going to need another, more rigorous license.
License re-certification: this is how pilot's licenses work. It would force drivers to keep their skills ad attentiveness up, rather than get lazy and terrible.
Finland-style driver training: we don't want people paying out the ass for the privilege to drive, like they do in Germany. We just want better drivers with more training for emergency avoidance, car control, and theory.
It's not so much to ask, is it?