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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Implementing a Travel Safe Zone

Monday, MoDOT implemented a Travel Safe Zone on eastbound I-64 between Mason Road and Ballas Road.

MoDOT implements Travel Safe Zones on those stretches of highway that significantly exceed the number of crashes with fatalities or disabling injuries when compared with similar highways with comparable traffic counts. The department uses a formula to determine a crash rate, based on the length of the stretch of highway, the number of crashes and the daily traffic on that highway.

In this case, there were 443 crashes over the last three years on eastbound I-64 in this area, including 180 crashes in 2008. Of those 443 crashes in the past three years, there were nine major crashes. In those nine major crashes, there were four fatalities and 33 people who received disabling injuries. Additionally, 295 of the 443 crashes were rear-end crashes, primarily during the day when the road was dry and the sky was clear. This tends to indicate excessive speed along the route, or distracted driving.

One of the public concerns we have heard about the Travel Safe Zone is that it is at the request of the local municipalities to increase their revenues. This is completely false – MoDOT initiated the Travel Safe Zone and MoDOT gets NO money from traffic tickets written along state routes. This is truly a safety issue. Our hope is to have people increase their safety awareness in this area, slow down and pay attention.

Currently, this Travel Safe Zone will remain in operation for a year.

13 comments:

Mike said...

If these zones are so unsafe why don't you simply decrease the speed limit? Wouldn't that make more sense that the allowing the higher limit but then hammering us with double the fine?

MODOT CR STL said...

Mike --

Thanks for your comment. Simply decreasing the speed limit, most likely, wouldn't help the problem. Right now, the speed limit on I-64 in this location is 60 mph. I would venture that most of the vehicles traveling through this area are doing at least that speed.

For instance, look at the variable speed limits on I-270. The purpose of the variable speed limits is to slow traffic down to reduce congestion (which would, ultimately, help the commuters and drivers on I-270). However, when we do reduce the speeds, for the most part, without significant enforcement, people will tend to ignore the limit.

So, implementing a Travel Safe Zone, with increased fines, in those areas where there is an obvious rise in the number of crashes, increases the general public awareness of the area. Knowing that it is a double fine zone, and seeing how many people have been ticketed, does also provide a certain amount of incentive to slow down and follow the posted limit.

Andrew Gates, MoDOT Community Relations

Mark said...

Still don't understand the Travel Safe Zone... What does that exactly mean? Are we to slow down? how slow are we supposed to go? How do we identify these "So Called" travel safe zones? Where exactly are these zones located?

MODOT CR STL said...

Mark --

The Travel Safe Zones are places where there is increased enforcement of traffic laws (especially speeding). These areas are set up in those locations where there are significantly more crashes than on other similar roads with the same level of traffic. A Travel Safe Zone is usually marked by a sign at the beginning and the end of the zone, and there is usually an "expiration" date on the zone.

This Travel Safe Zone is on eastbound I-64 from Mason to Ballas. You see a sign at Mason telling you that you are entering the zone, as well as a message board listing the number of tickets issued in the zone. It will expire in June of this year.

Since there were a high number of crashes, we would like people to obey the speed limits, limit distracted driving (cell phone conversations, texting, eating, putting on makeup, shaving, etc) and pay attention to the traffic around them. Ultimately, we want people to be safer within the zone.

Andrwe Gates, MoDOT Community Relations

MJ said...

This is ridiculous! My entire commute to Earth City and back downtown is now a 'Travel Safe Zone'. What rocket scientist decided to double fines, rather than lower the speed limit? Oh wait, let me guess, that was an accountant that came up w/ that idea? It's bad enough you are taking radar out of buildings (like the Drury Inn across from the airport), but now the fines are doubled!? I'll be writing my state representation and I urge everyone else that is fed up to do the same. Ridiculous.

MoDOT- Andrew Gates said...

MJ - MoDOT establishes the Travel Safe Zones based on rules set by the legislature. The section of roadway has to have an increased number of crashes, due to speed.

Lowering the speed limit really wouldn't help -- In fact, that section of interstate was at 55 mph for the last two years because of the narrow roads, and people still exceeded the speed limits by huge margins.

Finally, MoDOT just establishes the zones -- we don't enforce them. That's your state and municipality law enforcement. They determine where it is safe, and appropriate to check traffic speeds.

Heather said...

Is it possible to receive data for the years since the safety zones were put into effect in regards to accidents and fatalities?

Also, you stated that the zones were "usually" marked. This was taken from the Missoui Revised Statutes:
304.590. 1. As used in this section, the term "travel safe zone" means any area upon or around any highway, as defined in section 302.010, which is visibly marked by the department of transportation; and when a highway safety analysis demonstrates fatal or disabling motor vehicle crashes exceed a predicted safety performance level for comparable roadways as determined by the department of transportation.
It states that the zones are "visibly marked."
Has it been ensured that this is the case for all safe zones?

MoDOT- Andrew Gates said...

Heather -- safety and crash information is managed by the highway patrol. If you wanted to find out all the information, you could request that from them. You can also file a Sunshine Law request with MoDOT on a particular roadway. If we happened to have a post-Travel Zone safety analysis, we could provide it under the stipulations outlined in the Sunshine Law.


As far as I know, every active Travel Safe zone in the St. Louis area is clearly marked. However, I used the term "usually" to address the possibility of someone hitting or removing a sign. We would fix that as quickly as possible, of course.

Andrew Gates
MoDOT Community Relations

Jim said...

Shouldn't it be a Travel SafeLY Zone? I guess grammar doesn't apply to Missouri - just look at the license plate. Show Me State not Show-Me State.

Griddler said...

OK, I got a ticket on 70 Eastbound in Berkeley (just after crossing 170). Speed limit had just dropped from 60 to 55, and I was literally just staying with the flow of traffic at 72mph

Via a lawyer, reduced to a parking ticket, but wait! Berkely still collected 37x.xx from me!!!!

Tell me this is not a straight money grab. When did you collect the stats on 70 to set up the travel safe zone? When it was carrying 30% more traffic and had two more lanes painted during the 40 shutdown?

MODOT usually makes me proud with these little kingdom villages, witness shutting down the red light trap on natural bridge, and forcing Charlack to keep an officer on their little 170 overpass, but this time you are pandering to St. Ann, Berkeley, and every other little money grubbing village. I have to drive that stretch every stinking morning, and I can tell you, accidents are few and far between. Please publish statistics, and please provide info on the traffic load this time.

MoDOT- Andrew Gates said...

Griddler --The statistics that we used for determining the I-70 Travel Safe Zone were from 2007-2009 – so it gave us a combination of traffic levels - during “normal” operations of I-70 as well as during the higher traffic during the I-64 reconstruction. Travel Safe Zones are authorized by Missouri law for those areas which have a significantly higher rate of crashes, not number of crashes – the rate takes into account the number of crashes, the number of vehicles that use the roadway and the length of roadway we look at.

From 2007-2009, there were nearly 2,000 crashes on the current stretch of I-70 within the Travel Safe Zone. Of those, seven involved fatalities and another 73 had disabling injuries To determine the effectiveness (and possible continued use) of a Travel Safe Zone, we use crash rates from before and after the zone was established. We used the crash rates from January – June 2010 to determine what the crash levels were before the Travel Safe Zone on I-70 was established and the numbers from August 2010 to June 2011 to determine how effective the zone was. Based on that information, we have seen a significant decrease in the number of crashes on the roadway since the zone was established in early August 2010.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol maintains crash data on all the roadways in Missouri – if you are looking for specific data for roadways, you are welcome to ask them. We don’t publish that information, merely because we don’t own it. Of course, we will provide the data we use to make decisions to those customers who request it. For those who are interested, you can make an open records request here: http://www.modot.org/about/OpenRecords.htm.

We establish speed limits on Missouri's roadway to protect the motorists. Here is a pamphlet to help understand how and why speed limits are established: http://www.modot.mo.gov/stlouis/links/docs/speed.pdf. Reducing fatal and disabling crashes is a national focus, and controlling speeds can help accomplish this. Ongoing enforcement efforts throughout the country help improve the safety of all motorists.

MoDOT’s main concern is a reduction in crashes and increased safety on our roadways. The department gets no funding from any ticket issued on our roadways.

Andrew Gates
MoDOT Community Relations

Unknown said...

Andrew,
thank you for the detailed explanation.

I absolutely don't mean to imply MODOT gets any funding, rather, I believe the municipalities along that stretch are the beneficiaries, and if the articles I have read are correct, they 'pleaded' with MODOT for the travel safe zone.

I believe their motivation is primarily financial benefit to their city coffers.

Thanks for confirming the stats were gathered during 40 construction and later.

My understanding is normally travel safe zones are implemented for 1 year at at time. Will we see relief soon in the form of normal fines?

It seems the officers in those villages are now well versed in their new LIDAR guns so reducing the fines should not reduce the number of tickets, just the penalties back to the legislated values.

Thank you Andrew.

MoDOT- Andrew Gates said...

Griddler -- We just reviewed the statistics for that Travel Safe Zone on I-70, and the numbers justify maintaining the zone for at least another year (when we have to review it again). The package is currently going to our traffic team in Jefferson City for final approval.

Andrew Gates
MoDOT Community Relations