Accommodating the largest vehicles on the street- often emergency response vehicles or municipal refuse vehicles—prevents our city and county from redesigning streets for safer speeds and reduced crossing distances. We’ve seen this played out throughout Nassau County - emergency responders being less part of the solution to safe streets and more of a roadblock due to sheer size of vehicle, unnecessarily so.
Optimizing Large Vehicles for Urban Environments
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the USDOT Volpe Center released Optimizing Large Vehicles for Urban Environments, two reports detailing the effects of vehicle design on street safety, and the opportunities that public agencies—as significant purchasers of large vehicles—have to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities with improved vehicle design. Large vehicles include include freight trucks, waste management vehicle and fire trucks.
It really makes the case for vehicle downsizing - or rightsizing- to improve maneuverability and reduce conflict. A rightsized fleet increases a drivers ability to see and maneuver, thereby reducing the likelihood of a crash and will reduce lethality if a crash does occur. Smaller vehicles require a reduces turn radii, increasing opportunities for municipalities to implement traffic calming street designs and increase protected bike lanes and sidewalks.
Downsizing vehicles does not necessarily mean replacing a big truck with a small one. Many design elements can be retrofitted onto existing fleets, enhancing safety more rapidly than typical vehicle replacement cycles. These more economical design fixes include changes to wheel cut & wheelbase, steering configuration, and cab hieght, design &window placement. Benefits of downsizing vehicles includes improving drivers’ situational awareness, improving operational safety, and can leverage existing budgets & procurement cycles. The side effects of downsizing means less credentialed drivers commmandeering a municipal vehicle and a potentially long full fleet replacement time.
The second part of this release addresses Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) which use cameras, radar, and other sensors to scan a vehicles surroundings to prevent conflicts. ADAS can significantly mitigate crashes with other vehicles but are inconsistent at detecting and responding to pedestrians and bicyclists. The report favors coupling ADAS with driver training and education to avoid overreliance on the system to make decisions. It can also be linked with telematics systems to identify aggressive drivers, or contextual reasons for unsafe maneuvers.
These two reports really help people understand the opportunities for vehicle redesign for safer streets and improved safety outcomes. We’ve forwarded the reports to key decision makers in Nassau County, and will carry them in our mental filing cabinet during Legislative decisions on procurement come up.