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Traffic engineers work to make the streets of Billings safer


The safe design of roads and intersections can play a significant role in reducing the number of car accident injuries. Some of the most important design factors include speed limits, lane markings and the placement of traffic signals and signs. In Billings, the city's traffic engineers have the responsibility for most of these design decisions and they are continually looking for ways to improve safety.

In setting a speed limit, traffic engineers traditionally start with the 85th percentile of the speeds actually driven by motorists on a given road. Traffic engineers have a rule of thumb that 85 percent of drivers will not exceed a safe speed. But, the City Engineer of Billings says that in recent years her department has placed more emphasis on other factors, including the extent to which drivers are exceeding the posted limit, the difficulty pedestrians have in crossing the road and the difficulty other vehicles have when merging into traffic.

Lane markings can also be used to control and calm traffic. Engineers in Billings usually evaluate markings whenever a road is resurfaced and look for ways to improve safety. The city is implementing a major project to increase the number of marked crosswalks, especially near schools where large numbers of students cross the street every day.

There are 4,633 intersections in Billings, and over 1,000 are currently uncontrolled. As the city grows, traffic engineers anticipate placing stop signs and traffic signals at more of these intersections.

But, no matter what traffic engineers do to design safe roads, drivers will still have the ultimate responsibility for safely operating their vehicles. When a negligent driver causes a car accident, injured victims may be able to seek damages in a civil lawsuit.

Source: Missoulian, "Traffic engineers looking to improve safety of Billings streets, intersections," Mike Ferguson, Nov. 15, 2015

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