Did you know that more than 1.25 million people around the world are injured in traffic incidents every year? With outdated signage, inappropriate speed limits, and under capacity travel lanes, this may come as no surprise to many. We can all probably admit to honking our horns or shaking our fists at drivers that clog the roadway because of incorrect lane choice, outdated traffic signals or confusing signage.
Fortunately for us, there are professionals who are dedicated to eliminating these inconveniences and safety concerns – traffic engineers! You may be asking, “what does a traffic engineer do?” Essentially, traffic engineers study traffic conditions to provide safe and convenient roadway conditions for all users, including you! During Engineers Week, we thought we’d take a few moments to illustrate five ways traffic engineers and transportation planners make our lives better.
- Multimodal Transportation – Traffic engineers primarily concern themselves with finding safe and efficient solutions to multimodal transportation systems. That means that they not only consider vehicular movement, but also its relation to pedestrians, cyclists and other modes of transportation. With autonomous vehicles on the cusp of normality and a recent spike in healthy transportation alternatives, this job is more important than ever!
- Design – Have you ever been so confused on a roadway that you miss your exit? You’re not alone. Many existing roadways have outdated or obsolete design that causes confusion and indecision among users. Drivers end up vexed by design inefficiencies that have a Bermuda Triangle effect on us – we suddenly don’t know where we are or how we got there. Fortunately, one of the roles of a traffic engineer is to address traffic shortcomings of existing roadways. They begin with evaluating the current design of the roadway and studying the habits of its users. Then, alterations are implemented that align design and use for more efficient traffic flow. Bye, bye Bermuda Triangle.
- Speed Limit and Traffic Signals – Traffic control devices are imperative in guiding traffic. But confusion can often be created by inappropriate speed limits or traffic signals that are outdated or no longer warranted. Traffic engineers conduct speed zone studies and traffic signal studies for each unique roadway to determine which speed limits and traffic signals will improve safety and efficiency for all users, vehicular and pedestrian.
- Traffic Flow – In addition to safety, traffic engineers ensure the flow of traffic. Whether it be at an intersection or a parking lot, there are several factors that can impact the flow of traffic. It is the job of a traffic engineer to evaluate those factors and suggest lane-change markings, medians, illumination, etc., to achieve convenient movement of pedestrians and vehicles.
- Diagnosis – Complaining about traffic patterns and inconveniences come easy to many. But diagnosing and finding solutions to those inconveniences can only be left to the professionals. The process of solving traffic problems can loosely be compared to that of a doctor. Traffic engineers consider the symptoms of general traffic conditions and conduct assorted studies and analyses before making a competent diagnosis. The solution may not always be what we want, but it’s always what we need.
Whether or not we recognize the small ways engineering touches our daily lives, it is no question that engineers shape our modern world. This week, join us in raising awareness and celebrating the incredible impact that engineers have on society!