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What is traffic calming and how does it prevent accidents?

If it weren't for traffic laws, a lot of British Columbia residents would take extreme risks on the road that endanger themselves and others. In fact, even with traffic laws, not everyone does what they are supposed to do, but when it comes to various "traffic calming" techniques, it doesn't matter whether people follow the law. Traffic calming is the practice of designing roads in a way that slow drivers down and make the flow of traffic safer and easier to navigate.

No doubt many British Columbia motorists have been affected by different traffic calming techniques and never even realized it. Different traffic calming projects tend to be implemented around residential areas, parks and schools. Three of the most common are:

-- Speed humps and speed bumps;

-- Traffic circles; and

-- Separated lanes.

Speed humps are one of the best kinds of traffic calmers because motorists have no choice but to slow down when they're going over them. The consequence of not slowing down is a destroyed suspension or other damage to one's vehicle, so drivers must obey a speed hump regardless of whether they want to or not, and this has the overall effect of slowing down the flow of traffic and making it safer.

Traffic circles require drivers to go through a loop of traffic, which they have to slow down to navigate. Traffic loops mean that drivers cannot barrel through an intersection dangerously, and they cannot accidentally miss a stop sign. Once the motorist is in the traffic loop, he or she must slow down and pay close attention to other vehicles entering. Overall this also has the effect of making traffic slower and more manageable.

Finally, separated lanes prevent drivers from making a sudden lane change. When cars are forced to go in a straight line, they are only paying attention to what is in front of them and they cannot speed and weave dangerously through traffic, which is the primary cause of many collisions.

Unfortunately, although traffic calmers have reduced car accidents, injuries and fatalities in British Columbia, there is no way to prevent them completely. In cases where a motorist, passenger or pedestrian is hurt by a negligent driver, the injured party may be able to seek damages in court to hold the negligent driver responsible for his or her actions (and/or failures).

Source: City of Vancouver, "How traffic calming works," accessed Oct. 06, 2016

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