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Superstreets -- leaping traffic in a single bound

We've all had it happen, waiting at a traffic light for the left turn signal, cringing at the thought that the oncoming driver approaching in the opposite direction may (or may not) be paying attention to the color of their light. It is this type of scenario that has led to countless catastrophic injuries each year, prompting researchers to investigate not only why but how to prevent it from happening in the future.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have been studying the data collected from 13 superstreet intersections and comparing them to "traditional" roadways. It was found that the superstreet design decreases the likelihood of traffic accidents by 46 percent. Ironically, it also decreases travel time for motorists by 20 percent. For accidents leading to personal injury, the reduction in superstreet designs was 63 percent.

So, what is a superstreet, you may ask? A superstreet is where left-hand turns are redirected onto side streets. Instead of making a left turn, the driver is forced to make a right turn and then a U-turn around a median.

At first thought, this type of detour may seem like an annoying addition of time, but as stated previously, studies show this is not the case. In the areas where the superstreets have been constructed, vehicles are not forced to wait for their turn at the light and can stay in motion. Not only does this design save time, it is saving motorists from serious personal injury.

Personal injuries are costly. Victims of car accidents are faced with medical bills, lost wages and often the loss of their vehicle. If a change in roadway design can decrease the likelihood for injury, it is a win-win situation for everyone.

Source: The Daily North Salem, "Driving Out Left Turns," Julie Curtis, March 16, 2012

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