Next Generation Traffic Incident Management

Technology is helping agencies around the country gain additional situational awareness of all circumstances at traffic incidents, including vehicle hazards, access to victims, and search and rescue. Complicated recovery operations and hazardous spills are often not clearly visible from typical vantage-points. What is even less clear are the impacts that incidents have on upstream traffic, traffic approaching from the opposite direction, and the larger surrounding road network.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are being used by many police, fire and some transportation agencies across the U.S. to support traffic incident management (TIM) activities and heighten situational awareness. A newer innovation for service patrols is the use of a tethered UAS that can launch from a briefcase-sized box, fly straight up a prescribed distance (150 feet or less), and remain stationary without human intervention. Cameras on the tethered UAS send live video back to responders on the ground who can manipulate the view of the scene and surrounding area. Those images can also be shared with traffic management center (TMC) staff to help them better manage the information that is shared with the public.

Tethered UAS can be operated without an FAA remote pilot certificate or pilot license. They can withstand weather conditions that would ground a typical UAS, and most importantly, because they are tethered to a power source, their flight is not limited by the standard 30 minutes of battery life. The platform is currently being evaluated on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) Incident Management Assistance Patrol (IMPA).

Rhode Island STEPs Up Safety at Midblock Crossings

Throughout the United States, fatalities and serious injuries are on the rise among vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and bicyclists. To help address these crashes, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) developed an uncontrolled midblock crossing evaluation tool that is enabling it to address safety at more than 900 State-owned midblock crosswalks.

RIDOT used an application to streamline data collection, field visits, and to eliminate certain paperwork. The application geolocated signage, pavement markings, and the supplemental pictures of roadway elements that accompany the traditional field documentation. RIDOT also developed a dashboard to automate crash countermeasure selection for each inventoried crosswalk. Treatments included countermeasures promoted by FHWA’s Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian initiative such as rectangular rapid flashing beacons and pedestrian hybrid beacons.

RIDOT applied State Transportation Innovation Council funds toward developing the application and an FHWA Accelerated Innovation Deployment (AID) Demonstration program grant toward installing some of these enhancements.

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