The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 29, 2014

County shoring up road safety

By Amy Kent
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — Federal law makers and state legislators are beginning a nationwide initiative for road safety with the aim of a new direction toward zero deaths.

In order to adapt to that locally, Clinton County Engineer Todd Kinney presented his local roads safety plan to the Clinton County Board of Supervisors on Monday.

His plan coincides with the national initiative, know as the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21 Century Act (MAP-21). The idea of the initiative is to become more proactive with vehicle-caused fatalities by looking at new roadway features that will ensure safer public roads across the country.

“Toward zero death is the national vision for reducing traffic fatalities down to zero and this deals with the new direction in trying to achieve that goal,” Kinney said. “Basically what’s changing is MAP-21 changed some of the federal programs and along with that it’s kind of changing how crash data is evaluated and how crashes are trying to be mitigated.”

MAP-21 was signed into law by President Obama in 2012, and now Kinney and others like him across the country are looking at ways they can embrace the zero deaths initiative.

According to Kinney, the previous mentality took statistical crash history to warrant improvement in a section of the roadway. The new approach instead will look at risk factors on roadway sections such as limited clear distance, limited side distance, narrow shoulders, clear zone hazards and tight curvature degrees that could be identified for future projects that could prevent fatal crashes.

“It’s trying to change from that reactive point of view where instead of looking for blood on the pavement or issues, you’re looking at roads where we can reduce crashes before they happen,” Kinney said. “And, it’s changing from a localized perception of crashes where you look at a certain spot and now it’s more systemic so you’re looking over your whole system of roads.”

In order to evaluate the risk and begin improving roads to prevent fatal or serious crashes, a variety of federally funded safety projects are available to the county through the MAP-21 initiative and it is up to the Board of Supervisors as to which programs they would like to address.

One of the strategies the board was interested in using for the future road assessments was the four E’s (education, emergency services, enforcement and engineering) safety improvement plan. Those four E’s each deal with a different aspect of safe driving, and each can be utilized in a different way to improve fatal crash ratings.

“One of our biggest risk factors is distracted driving,” Kinney said. “Well, what kind of engineering mitigation strategy do you apply for distracted drivers? That’s really hard to do. What you need to apply is more education and enforcement for distracted drivers.”

To ensure that the four E’s are each being utilized the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office and Clinton County Emergency Management will play a big part of the local road safety plan, along with Kinney, as the process moves forward.

Iowa, compared to other states, is in the beginning portion of the MAP-21 act but as Kinney’s plan and many others like it state-wide begin to take shape, officials hope the national impact of the initiative will make the country a safer place to drive.