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Parking Garage Safety at the University of Houston

Abstract

The research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety depicted that 20% of all auto accidents happen in commercial parking lots. The parking garages on the campus have several levels; to get up to the next step, a driver has to go up along a two-way ramp. The ramp also has a stream of people coming down. The issue is that with certain drivers speeding up to the top or the bottom of the ramp, head-on collisions with pedestrians entering the ramp can occur. In addition, the currently placed speed bumps are tiny and do not compel drivers to slow down. Furthermore, in the absence of a sign showing that there are speed bumps present, most cars choose not to slow down. With a speed limit sign missing, individual drivers can accelerate to a very high speed, which is utterly reckless.

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University of Houston Parking Garage Safety

The University of Houston has in the recent past faced many challenges regarding the misinterpreted signs on the road leading to the garage. First, many students have lost lives because of the collisions that happen on the road. This trend results from the few invisible road safety signs available on the roads. On the other hand, some students encounter physical damage that often renders them absolutely immobile. This hampers their progress in education, thereby affecting them psychologically. As a result of this reality, the university has been held accountable in many incidences so that it is wholly liable for the damage caused to the students. Moreover, many students have recorded losses as the vehicles are wrecked beyond repair. The losses add an economic burden to the students as most of them cannot afford the cost of acquiring new vehicles. Additionally, the students get much inconvenienced when commuting to and from the institution. The poorly structured road safety signs are supposed to be made visible so that the drivers are aware of them before they get to the spot. Some of the drivers admitted that they do not notice the signals and therefore drive at their own will regardless of the prevailing conditions in the garage. The use of road signs and signals specifically aims at reducing the number of collisions on the roads by communicating the required information to the drivers and the pedestrians. If both parties estimate the situation accurately, there is no doubt that road collisions can be drastically reduced. The manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices in 2009 highlighted the requirements for the maintenance of all road signs (United States, 2015). This manual spelled out the conditions that stipulate proper maintenance of road signs and signals. Nonetheless, it says that the construction of many signs has both financial and management implications to the government. Consequently, appropriate maintenance of the facilities is at risk. The University of Houston has become an embodiment of poor management of road signs and signals in its endeavor to monitor and ensure traffic safety. This study is going to review the available information regarding road signs that include pedestrian crossings, speed bumps, and speed limits. Through the research, the university will be able to find ways that will ensure the safety of those entering the garage as well as to avoid the liabilities connected with the crashes that take place in the garage.

Literature Review

Pedestrian Crossing

Currently, the University of Houston has an inadequate traffic system in the garage section. In fact, the university’s garage has an insufficient number of pedestrian crossings, speed-bumps, and speed limits warning signs. This situation has jeopardized the safety of the students parking their vehicles in the garage. According to the study carried out on the accidents in the working zones in Kentucky in 1983, in most accidents, which occurred in these zones, there were rear-end collisions. The study recorded crashes at 30%, sideswipe at 16%, and finally fixed object-type collisions at 7%. These outcomes majorly resulted from negligent driving at 32%, the inability of drivers to give way to deserving motorists or pedestrians at 15 %, and overspeeding at 11%. (McCracken, 2014). The university is less structured with sufficient pedestrian crossings facilities such as zebra crossings, traffic signals, and pedestrian sidewalks. For instance, the traffic signals are dysfunctional and inoperative so that they cannot serve the intended purpose. On the other hand, the markings on the zebra crossings are also faded. Following this condition, the drivers cannot notice the spot of zebra crossing from a long distance, especially when they are overspeeding. Additionally, the subways have got more potholes, which force motorists to use sidewalks both for parking and moving. According to the United States (2015) in the “Impacts of LED Brightness, Flash Pattern, and Location for Illuminated Pedestrian Traffic Control Device,” the habit blocks the subway so that it is not possible to notice the oncoming vehicles and less available road signs. Concisely, this renders the pedestrians going to and from the garage at the risk of being knocked down by the oncoming motorists.

Moreover, traverse pavements in the subway to the garage are to help the students know the exact point where they can legally cross the roads. The crossing designation has guided the students to various destinations along proper paths. Additionally, the designations aid motorists to navigate easily to and from the garage as well as to slow down whenever they notice the pedestrians crossing. However, the studies have come up with differing findings on whether it is safe to cross roads at designated locations. The use of pedestrian crossings in the world results from the belief in their effectiveness by the involved road agencies. Lyon, Persaud, Eccles, United States, Brustlin, & Lyon (2015) reiterate in the “Safety evaluation of wet-reflective pavement markers” that the pedestrian crossing has been used in large traffic areas where the motorists drive fast to ease congestion and delays. Despite the fact that most accidents involving pedestrians usually arise at the zebra crossing or pedestrian designated areas, it has never changed the perceptions of people regarding the effectiveness of pedestrian crossings. Lyon et al. (2015) added that zebra crossings or pedestrian designated areas are the most appropriate places that encourage road safety when used properly. The authors advocated for the proper use of the road signs if road crashes are to be avoided.

Conversely, zebra crossings are only useful when they are clearly visible from a long distance. This fact will allow the drivers to make informed decisions on the most appropriate and safe choices. In the “Evaluation of Ohio work zone speed zones process” Finley, Jenkins, McAvoy, Texas and M transportation institute, & Ohio (2014) argue that an unclear and invisible pedestrian crosswalk is one of the biggest problems in the university highway subway. The infrastructure is inadequate, misused, and underutilized. The pedestrian bridges are not properly maintained because they are expensive (Finley, et al. 2014). Additionally, the use of the pedestrian bridges that have no escalators is a negative experience. In the same breath, most pedestrians usually cross busy traffic roads in undesignated areas. In this case, sidewalks are non-existent in the institution and are insufficiently maintained and planned. It is usual to get a sidewalk crossing on the roadway, but surprisingly enough it is not marked. This makes the path invisible to motorists or pedestrians going from the garage.

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Pedestrians are regarded the victims of the road accidents along the garage subway. Most motorists drive at high speeds oblivious of the pedestrian crossing merely because they are late for their classes. A study of a level crossing over the railway track used by both vehicles and pedestrians in Finland found that pedestrians and cyclists had a higher frequency of violation than motor vehicles (Hass-Klau, 2015). Nevertheless, some pedestrians have ended up crossing the roads in the places undesignated for pedestrian crossings. They are also notorious for passing the subways while violating the traffic signals and walking along the way. Therefore, pedestrians are responsible for the accidents in these cases .

The students’ driving culture is also to blame for the rising cases of the accidents along the highway. Of late, students are repugnant about giving way to the pedestrians crossing the roads, and they have a habit of parking vehicles on the footpaths and sidewalks. This practice blocks the way that is supposed to be used by the pedestrians, creates potholes and rough pavements, as well as causes hit-and-run attitude, especially when the pedestrians are involved in the crashes (Wayne State University, 2014). In most cases, the drivers involved in the hit-and-run accidents claim that they are not aware they hit people instead of objects. These circumstances prevent the insurance corporations from facilitating the insurance scheme of victims in processing their respective compensations. Subsequently, the victims end up suffering for the rest of their lives as a result of reckless driving (Hass-Klau, 2015). The continued misuse of pedestrian facilities, such as sidewalks, by vendors and commercial agencies further jeopardizes pedestrian safety. The paths are supposed to be clear and only be used by the pedestrians. On the other hand, the motorists get enticed by the merchants operating on the sidewalks and therefore use sidewalks as parking lots. As a result, most pedestrians, having no other place to walk, end up walking in the middle of the roads, hence causing much congestion. When the behavior is condoned, major cases of pedestrians getting knocked down by motorists are bound to be witnessed. Finally, the vendors who operate in the sidewalks distract the drivers, therefore further risking the concentration of the driver.

Solution

The university administration should make sure that zebra crossing points are repainted and taken good care of. Moreover, they should reinstall the traffic lights so that the latter cater for a significant amount of traffic moving to the garage. Additionally, the sidewalks should be properly maintained to accommodate the alarming traffic from the parking section. The subway should also be refurbished, with the potholes filled. This means that the institution will have to restructure its system and revitalize the mechanisms that would ensure proper sustainability of such amenities. Sometimes, the best strategy may entail attaching a penalty to the violations of the regulations that threaten the safety of pedestrians as well as motorists.

Nevertheless, the university can adopt the use of road signs. The management is to install the road signs in more dangerous regions, such as junctions, indicating the presence of a pedestrian crossing. The signs, on the other hand, should be clear and visible for the drivers to recognize them. On a standard scale, putting up signals on the roads reduces the cases of collisions to negligible rates, especially at road junctions.

As explained before, the commitment to install and maintain road sings is an expensive measure for the university’s administration. For this reason, the installation of the road signs should take place when there is an automatic need for it. Meanwhile, the students are supposed to be educated about the significance and the purpose of the road signs so that they can serve their intended purpose. This will ensure that the university does not spend money on the signs in vain, while the students merely ignore their significance.

Speed Bumps

Speed bumps are usually used in the parking areas to make the drivers slow down when approaching them. Usually, speed bumps are four inches high and two inches long. They may also appear in private entries. To drive over the speed bumps, the drivers have to reduce the speed of the motor vehicles so that not to get uncomfortable as well as to prevent damages to the vehicle. However, speed bumps lose their meaning when cars with loose shock absorbers pass over them at an excessive speed. The research indicates that speed bumps make the drivers decelerate to about 17 miles per hour when driving over them (Wayne State University, 2014). At this speed, the vehicles rock depending on the speed the drivers have maintained.

The introduction of speed bumps as a strategy to lower traffic has become a prevalent option for localities and government agencies across the U.S. For instance, in the recent past, one city managed to install 300-speed bumps. The reaction has been mixed. Speed bumps are a way of reducing the speed of motorists in the garage section for the latter to be able to pass them. However, the speed bumps in the institution are not visible and are too low. They are not painted with bright colors, so the motorists do not see them from a distance. This condition makes the motorists approach the bumps by surprise, causing accidents as a result of overturning or the oss of control. Many students have perished as a consequence of the poorly maintained speed bumps. In addition, the speed bumps are getting low because of the time period they have served. This makes them almost level to the standard subway; so, there is no difference between a bump and the subway. The motorist, therefore, speeds through the bumps, thereby causing accidents in the garage.

Solution

The management of the university should have the speed bumps reinstalled and painted with bright colors so that they are visible by oncoming motorists. Alternatively, road signs indicating the presence of speed bumps along the road should be put up in the nominated areas. The signs should be visible enough so that the motorists can see them when driving and make correct choices.

Moreover, the university should solicit the use of portable speed bumps as a safety device to ensure their fast installation on the way to the garage. The portable bumps are lightweight and can be moved to the required destinations. The advantageous part of the portable bumps is that they are durable due to being made of neoprene rubber (Finley, et al., 2014). The bump can also be unfolded and moved to another place, what requires less effort. The analysis of the effectiveness of portable bumps was done by South Dakota DOT (1993). The evaluation found out that the portable rumble strips did not achieve the required outcomes. However, the device can be used on a temporary basis.

Despite the purpose that the speed bumps serve, most urban places, especially universities and hospitals, have complained about the bumps, provoking the involved people to gang up and uninstall the bumps. They have cited cases such as increased noise, reduced speed in the situations of emergencies, and invisibility. Therefore, speed bumps are supposed to be installed in accordance with the collective agreement on the significance of speed bumps between the road users and the university administration.

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Speed Limits

There exists a direct relationship between the vehicles’ speed and the probability of an accident. A study done by the ECMT and OECD in the year 2006 indicated that overspending is the biggest problem in road safety in most countries in the world (McCracken, 2014). The study also revealed that the reduction of the average speed by 5% would, in turn, reduce the number of severe road accidents by 20 % (McCracken, 2014). A considerable decrease in speed consequently leads to the mitigation and prevention of the number of collisions and significantly reduces the severity of the crashes.

It has also been noted that speed limits increase traffic flow in urban areas and later reduces delays and congestion. This mostly happens in the areas where the traffic signs are functioning properly. In addition to that, reduced speed limits are cost-effective since the vehicles’ fuel consumption lowers drastically, accompanied by reduced wear and tear, increased efficiency, and less noise. Furthermore, the research suggests that most drivers sacrifice their safety and that of other road users by reaching high speeds to avoid lateness to their destinations. This is a negative tendency since there are factors such as the amount of traffic, car performance, accident rates, driving skills, and road geometry that needs consideration before speeding.

Lower speed will mostly encourage improved driving skills and caution so that the driver can note other road users. This, in turn, leads to a more conducive driving environment. Likewise, reduced speeds will automatically result in the fulfillment of long-term goals.

In the “Pedestrian safety. Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive engineers”, Holt & Society of Automotive engineers (2015) claim that crash involvement rates were lower for the vehicles traveling below the average speed, considering the significance of speed and the likelihood of being hit. Another research proposes that the impact of the average speed on accident frequency was sturdier as compared to the influence of speed disparity. As a methodology meant to regulate speed, there is another suggestion that seeks to reduce speed variations, which do not lead to safety. Such a regulation might propel slower drivers to move faster, thus feeling uncomfortable (United States (2015). Similarly, several other researchers verified the findings of Harkey and his colleagues who established the minimum risk of collision involvement at approximately 90% speed on all urban avenues in the United States. Other more recent studies have also supported the findings of the team.

There exists a relationship between speed variation in the traffic streams and crashes. The research has shown that speed dispersion plays a significant role in crash risk on most road types. This means: the higher the speed of the motorist is, the much likely it is for the vehicle to get involved in a crash.

Ostensibly, the installation of the signs of speed limit may be a rational method of discouraging the motorists from speeding. However, innumerable studies demonstrate that the signs of speed limit have a feeble influence on real driving speeds (McCracken, 2014). They fail to operate with the help of speedometers; however, following the requisite conditions, they meet certain standards. This situation implies that drivers will be obliged to make adjustments in their average velocity regarding the prevalent conditions on the roads or the determination to arrive at their respective destinations.

In reality, the university has fewer roads signs that inform the motorists of the necessity to be aware of the current speed limits. Due to this fact, the students drive for pleasure not bearing in mind that they are in an environment which accommodates much traffic. This causes accidents among the motorists, or results in the pedestrians being knocked down.

Solution & Conclusion

The institution should set up visible road signs indicating the current speed limits along the subway to the garage. Ideally, they should install well-illuminated signs that can be visible even during the night. Again, the university can instill road discipline among the students through major rallies and campaigns in the institution emphasizing the significance of road safety and quoting the numerous risks that careless driving has caused the institution.

Additionally, the university can implement the use of the radar speed monitoring system. This method is usually used to measure the speed of a driven vehicle (Lyon and Inc., 2015). The radar speed monitoring system aims at reducing the speed of motorists within work zones. The device has recorded success in automatically lessening the speed of vehicles approaching institutions. However, as noted by the National academies of sciences, engineering, and medicine (U.S.), National research council (U.S.), & National research council (U.S.) (2015), attempts to reduce variation in speed cannot be translated to increased safety because the slower drivers will tend to drive much faster in uncomfortable circumstances such as congestions. This appears to be even much worse when the student drivers are late for their classes.

As discussed in this paper, it is evident that the institution should introduce changes to enhance road safety in the parking garage (National Academies of Sciences, et al., 2014). It has also been noted that speed limits increase traffic flow in urban areas and, in turn, reduce delays and congestion. Therefore, these changes, if implemented, can lead to a smooth running of traffic, thereby easing congestion and reducing collisions. Road safety can be improved by installing pedestrian signs, speed limit signs, and speed bumps signs visible to the motorists. However, most of the students are aware of the road signs but simply ignore them. This is because the general view in the institution is that there are few invisible road signs (Lyon, et al. 2014). Therefore, providing a civic education to teach pedestrians and motorists about the importance of adhering to the information on the signs will help restore sanity. Civic education can be implemented through the media or a public campaign that will ensure the students’ participation in the whole process. Involving a participatory approach will guarantee the students’ responsibility to the provisions of the laws regarding road safety.

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