1. #1
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    Default We've Hated These Things For Years

    Most Dangerous Part Of Highway? Toll Plazas

    POSTED: 10:20 am EDT April 19, 2006

    WASHINGTON -- The most dangerous place on the highway is the toll plaza, say federal safety investigators who are urging changes to reduce accidents like one that claimed eight lives in Illinois.

    Though highway safety issues such as drunken driving, seat belt use and air bag deployment are debated, studied and regulated, toll plaza safety has been virtually ignored.

    "Toll plazas have been designed for 50 years without national design standards," Dan Walsh, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said during a Tuesday hearing on the Illinois crash.

    More toll plazas are being built and old ones are being retrofitted for electronic toll collection, he said.

    "The need for standards is paramount," Walsh said.

    The NTSB recommended Tuesday that federal highway officials develop design standards to reduce the number of crashes at toll plazas. Those may include guidelines on signs, pavement markings, lane width or rumble strips.

    The recommendations resulted from the investigation of a chain-reaction crash on Oct. 1, 2003, that killed eight people near Hampshire, Ill.

    A speeding Freightliner tractor-trailer slammed into the back of a small bus that had nearly stopped at an interstate toll plaza about 50 miles west of Chicago.

    The Freightliner slammed into the bus, pushing it into another truck and causing a five-vehicle pileup. Killed in the crash were eight of the 22 passengers in the bus, which carried a group returning from a garden tour.

    The safety board blamed the inattentive Freightliner driver.

    Investigators also said that traditional toll booths, where drivers pay attendants or throw money into an automatic coin machine, increase the danger of rear-end collisions because drivers must stop suddenly.

    NTSB investigators said:

    49 percent of all interstate accidents in Illinois are at toll plazas, and three times as many people die in them as in accidents on the road itself.
    30 percent of all accidents on the Pennsylvania toll highway system happen at toll plazas.
    38 percent of all crashes on New Jersey toll highways are toll plaza accidents.

    Introducing electronic toll collection lanes, though, can make the problem worse.

    Mohamed Abdel-Aty, associate professor at Central Florida University's department of civil and environmental engineering, studied the Orlando-Orange County Expressway system in Florida.

    Between January 1994 and June 1997, 31.6 percent of total crashes occurred at the 10 main toll plazas and 46.3 percent at the 38 toll booth ramps, Abdel-Aty found.

    Introducing E-PASS electronic toll collection lanes beside the regular lanes increased the accident rate at the busy Holland-East Mainline Plaza, he found.

    "It's the mixture of E-PASS lanes and other lanes -- the confusion from nonfamiliar drivers -- that's causing most of the rear-end collisions," Abdel-Aty said.

    One key to preventing crashes at toll booths, he said, is separating drivers who have to stop from those who don't. Drivers also need signs and lane markings that give them enough time to get into the proper lane, he said.

    The Federal Highway Administration is expected to finish a study on best practices for toll plazas this summer, NTSB investigators said.

    Connecticut abolished all of its toll booths in 1989 after a crash six years earlier when a tractor-trailer rig plowed into cars at the Stratford toll plaza, killing seven and injuring many more.

    "That got the legislature saying, 'We've hated these things for years,"' said Connecticut transportation department spokesman Chris Cooper. "Clearly we felt there was a safety issue."

    The state, though, is considering reinstating tolls as a way of raising money for new roads and easing congestion. Connecticut has applied for federal money to study a concept in which vehicles with electronic toll cards would slow slightly as they pass under an overhead transponder system. A cash lane would be separate from the flow of traffic.

    "It would be like getting off at a rest stop," Cooper said.

    Thirty-one states have toll facilities and 19 have none, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

    Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press.


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    I can see the mixture of EZPass and Cash lanes being a real problem. Not only do you have the "confusion of nonfamiliar drivers", but you also have some lanes slowing to a complete stop, then accelerating to highway speed while other lanes only slow to 15mph. Both types of lanes are expected to merge after then length of the Toll plaza.
    The NJTP (and other places) now have the EZPass Express lanes which are totally seperated from the rest of the plaza. With that, cars don't have to slow at all and merge with the rest of traffic in a half-mile. Seems to be a lot safer.

    Personally I'm a little hesitant of EZPass. It's a lot more convenient, but it's only a matter of time before they start issuing tickets based on my time between two Tolls.

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    As far as the Orange County, Orlando statement, I can full heartedly agree...Those tollbooths scare the crap out of me. You can legally do 60 MPH through the tollbooth...talk about a fun experience. I do like how NY has set up the tolls on the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges...VERY clear signs, and the road way/lanes are marked accordingly. Here in MA on the turnpike, work could be done, but it's not as bad as other places.
    The comments made by me are my opinions only, not of the Fire and EMS services I am affiliated with.

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    Though highway safety issues such as drunken driving, seat belt use and air bag deployment are debated, studied and regulated, toll plaza safety has been virtually ignored.
    Ummm. What did I miss here? Is there a new problem with air bags mysteriously firing off while cruising downt the road and killing thousands of people every year? Or did they run out of real accident causes and make that up to fill some space in the article??

    Other than that, I actually agree with most of this. In all of the traveling between CT and NC I've down, I haven't encounted one toll plaza that is identical to another and they were all a massive cluster-cluck. The way the lanes are laid out and marked, the lighting, the signs, it all sucks. There are federal standards for everything else that goes into highway design, marking, signage, and lighting but it seems toll plazas were a minor oversight.

    I'd like to see toll plazas where the highways come into CT. The amount of out-of-state traffic in the spring, summer, and fall is rediculous. I think everyone in NYC and NJ owns a summer getaway in Rhode Island or Vermont and they all travel for free through CT. The traffic is a mess and the roads suck. I see nothing wrong with taking money from the travelers to help with upkeep and improvements.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Ummm. What did I miss here? Is there a new problem with air bags mysteriously firing off while cruising downt the road and killing thousands of people every year? Or did they run out of real accident causes and make that up to fill some space in the article??
    Hehheheehee. I read that too, and wondered if anyone would pick up on it.
    If you don't do it RIGHT today, when will you have time to do it over? (Hall of Fame basketball player/coach John Wooden)

    "I may be slow, but my work is poor." Chief Dave Balding, MVFD

    "Its not Rocket Science. Just use a LITTLE imagination." (Me)

    Get it up. Get it on. Get it done!

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    Investigators also said that traditional toll booths, where drivers pay attendants or throw money into an automatic coin machine, increase the danger of rear-end collisions because drivers must stop suddenly.
    Suddenly? Hey stupid, there's a toll booth ahead. You have to stop and pay. Where is the "suddenly' in any of this?

    Look at the title itself, most dangerous part of the highway...and yet less than half of accidents are in toll plazas. That means, more than half are NOT at toll plazas. You have more of a chance of getting in an accident outside of a toll plaza.

    IMO, this article (while there are a few probably true statements) sucks. It sounds like it was written by someone that learned everything via an internet board.
    Last edited by Bones42; 04-19-2006 at 04:14 PM.
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    I am not sure about the air bag issue, but coincidentally, there is a discussion on a Ford site that I visit regarding legislation introduced in NY intended to ban the use of grill guards or aftermarket bolt-on accessories due to apparent interference with Air Bag deployment. Perhaps one source of the notation.

    And on the topic of toll booths, I am in agreement that mixing the lanes is bad. The new toll highways in Ontario that I drive are all boothless, and use video cameras to record license plates and mail out bills to users without electronic passes. Obviously there is increased opportunity for abuse, but I think it is worth it.

    For areas with toll boothes, how do emergency vehicles bypass them without undue delay or risk from higher-speeds?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42
    Suddenly? Hey stupid, there's a toll booth ahead. You have to stop and pay. Where is the "suddenly' in any of this?

    Look at the title itself, most dangerous part of the highway...and yet less than half of accidents are in toll plazas. That means, more than half are NOT at toll plazas. You have more of a chance of getting in an accident outside of a toll plaza.

    IMO, this article (while there are a few probably true statements) sucks. It sounds like it was written by someone that learned everything via an internet board.
    Well Bones, to me if a hundred mile stretch highway has 50% of it's accidents in one or two locations, that's cause for serious concern.

    And the idea of designing highways to accomodate the potential for accidents dictates that you assume that idiots will miss the standard signs and lights.
    Never argue with an Idiot. They drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience!

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    Not in my area. Here we have these cute little pedistrian crossing areas with lights, plants and palm trees in the median. There are like 8 of them and one of them gets hit every other month.
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