According to a recent study conducted by the Transport Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University, active road studs have a positive effect on driver confidence.
The study “Active Road Studs as an Alternative to Lighting on Rural Roads: Driver Safety Perception” was the first to study the effects of the use of active RoadStuds (Road Studs with LEDs) on the confidence of drivers at night. Analyzing the status of active road studs to drivers relative to other road features such as lines, street lighting and retroreflective reflective studs. The cost and environmental effect of standard interventions such as street lighting make the active road stud a great alternative to night-time road lighting.
Active Road Studs Rise Drivers Confidence at Night-time
It discovered that, while demand for street lighting may remain, active roadstuds have a significant positive effect on driver confidence where they are installed.
The enhancement in visibility of road elements, such as intersections and bends, is suggested as the initial explanation for the rise in driver confidence connected to the active Road Studs. Intelligent road studs have also been shown to assist drivers acquire a better sense for what is in front of them as they emerge, resulting in a better preview time of the road ahead and, consequently, a faster reaction.
According to the survey results, the active road stud not only helps to emphasize the road, but it also helps to mitigate challenges created by the presence of other cars. Users noted an advantage from being able to see the road beyond approaching vehicles' headlights. The presence of active road studs would appear to benefit all drivers, particularly those with greater levels of glare or contrast sensitivity, by adding extra clarity to the road alignment.
Equity in access to transportation
Active RoadStuds benefits can be expected across all user groups, with particular benefits for elderly and female drivers.
Significantly, the usage of the active road stud was found to be extremely favorable across all demographic groups, with substantial support for further use on the road network. Most notably, consumers thought the route's safety had been enhanced, resulting in an increase in trust. This sense of safety is especially important for elderly and less-confident users, who may self-regulate their driving as a result, potentially resulting in a loss of independence and general health. It is claimed that the active road stud may possibly assist to resolving such issues by boosting driver confidence.
Given that driving at night is known to disproportionately affect female and senior road users, the implementation of such a policy might help address issues about equity in access to transportation, particularly in rural regions.
Cost-effective and environmentally friendly
“In practice, what this may suggest is that in situations where lighting brings with it a high cost (either financial or environmental) or potential disbenefit (decreased concentration or increased speeds), the active road stud might be considered as a viable alternative by road engineers”, study says. Intelligent road studs provide a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to streetlighting or when illumination installation is not possible, contributing to the increment of driver confidence at night and thereby potentially opening journey opportunities.
“It would appear from the results presented that the studs have a high level of benefit at a relatively low cost, particularly when compared with the installation of street lighting.” it added.
Improvements to Traffic Flow and Vehicle Collisions Reduction
Early study on the project centered on the Sheriffhall Roundabout on the A720 in Scotland. Actively controlled road studs were utilized in this case, with the studs synchronized with the A720 traffic lights on the roundabout. With the new technology in place, as soon as the traffic light at the roundabout's entry turns green, studs embedded in the road surface glow and assist cars towards the proper roundabout lanes. When the traffic light goes red, all of the studs in that part turn off, and when the matching traffic signal turns green, the studs in the following section illuminate. As a result, vehicles now have an illuminated green phase to lead them all the way around and off the roundabout, as well as strong visual delineation of the lanes to improve lane discipline and decrease avoidable incidents.
According to Mr. Llewellyn's study on the Sheriffhall Roundabout, Lighting the Way: The Use of Intelligent Road Studs at Spiral-Marked Roundabouts, there was a 60% drop in partial lane violations and a 45% reduction in full lane shifts as a result of the studs being deployed.
According to the paper's findings, when used in conjunction with a spiral marked roundabout, the road stud has a beneficial influence on driving behavior. Lane discipline is expected to increase, which reduces the likelihood of vehicle collisions. According to the report, there may be improvements to traffic flow as a result of increased predictability of pathways through the roundabout.
While it is not a cure-all for all lane violations, the research provided showed that it can result in considerable improvement and has the potential to decrease the costs of accidents and related traffic delays.
Inadequate Road Visibility During Darkness
Recent project work included investigating intelligent studs put on the A1 in Scotland. Residents and frequent travelers lobbied for years for upgrades to address perceived safety problems along the route. Despite this, Transport Scotland stated to local elected members that just two minor injury crashes had occurred over the time period studied. However, the assessment discovered that during the hours of darkness, the visibility of the route's intersections may be viewed as inadequate, and an upgrade scheme was subsequently devised to address user complaints. The design included the use of LED Active Road Studs to emphasize intersections and selected linkages in order to improve user perception and experience. At nine intersections, including two intermediate lengths of roadway, over 4200 studs were placed in total.
The purpose of this study was to analyze the significance of road characteristics during the hours of darkness, as well as the opinion of active road studs in this context. Respondents were asked to rate the following six aspects on a five-point Likert scale ranging from ‘not important' to ‘very significant': street lighting at intersections, street lighting on curves, road studs at intersections, road studs on curves, solid white lines at road borders, and white line markings in the center of the road. They were also asked whether the introduction of the active road stud had changed their opinion on seven themes: clarity of junctions; clarity of curves; clarity of lanes; their confidence driving in darkness; opportunities for travel; overall safety; and incidence of speeding on the route, on a five-point scale from ‘strongly worsened' to ‘strongly improved.'
Drivers Reaction to Road Studs
Drivers reacted favorably to the active road stud as a nighttime road feature. Overall, 93 percent of respondents noted an increase in the clarity of the route's intersections, bends, and lanes. Positive shifts in safety perception were also discovered. Eighty percent of respondents said the general safety of the A1 road had improved, with one-third saying their travel options had expanded. In all, 72 percent of respondents said they felt more confident driving in the dark.
Mr Llewellyn added: “Our work has shown the scheme as implemented has met the goals set of improving driver confidence by highlighting key features during hours of darkness, at a relatively low cost. This is important finding, particularly from a societal point-of-view. There is clear potential for even greater benefits to be gained if these changes in confidence result in positive changes to driver behavior and a reduction in collision potential. The next phase of our research will look at changes to speed profiles and gap acceptance at junctions along the route, two significant causation factors in rural collisions. If positive changes can be found in these areas, the benefits of intelligent road studs in contribution to road safety targets could be even greater than those already shown.”
The six-year study by Edinburgh Napier University is due to complete and report final overall results this December.
Source: Llewellyn, R.; Cowie, J.; Maher, M. Active Road Studs as an Alternative to Lighting on Rural Roads: Driver Safety Perception. Sustainability 2020, 12, 9648. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12229648