No matter how safe of a driver someone is, it just takes one instance of human error for an accident to happen. We shoot through the intersection just as the yellow light changes to red.  We drift into the adjacent lane while responding to a text message. We nod out for a split-second because we didn’t get enough sleep the previous night.

Most times when taking these risks, we are lucky and manage to avoid an accident.  But it only takes one unlucky moment to cause serious harm to yourself and your fellow motorists. For local departments of transportation (DOT), the multiplier effect of millions of drivers taking risks, can be devasting.

The global epidemic of road crash fatalities and disabilities is gradually being recognized as a major public health concern.  According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel:

  • Each year nearly 1.25 million people die in road crashes around the world, an average of 3,287 deaths a day
  • An additional 20-50 million people are injured or disabled annually
  • Road crashes cost USD $518 billion globally, costing individual countries from 1-2% of their annual GDP

Education alone isn’t the answer

DOT’s are scrambling to find a solution, but motorist education doesn’t appear to work.   A recent AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index survey makes this clear.  Respondents recognize that aggressive, distracted and impaired driving is unsafe.  But recognizing unsafe behavior and agreeing on the importance of safe driving doesn’t change behaviors behind the wheel. According to the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, human error is still the primary factor in 95% of road crashes.

According to the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, human error is still the primary factor in 95% of road crashes.

Some innovative DOT’s have begun partnering with car manufacturers and technology vendors to make roadways safer by minimizing the potential for human error. Many new vehicles are equipped with safety features like lane-departure correction, obstacle detection and collision avoidance.  And some manufacturers are beginning to include vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology (V2I) in their newer models.

But to realize the full potential of V2V and V2I technologies, DOT’s need to have the required roadside infrastructure in place.

CDOT and Ciena

Ciena is working with one trail-blazing DOT – the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to accomplish that.  A recent TechTarget case study describes how CDOT is partnering with auto manufacturers and technology providers on a “highway automation” project to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities.

In the article, CDOT’s Bob Fifer provides his vision of reducing traffic fatalities by transforming the state’s transportation system into a “next-generation information system”.  This combines V2V and V2I technologies, roadside sensors, video cameras, artificial intelligence and next-generation network technology.  CDOT’s ecosystem will support the connected cars of today and provide a foundation for autonomous vehicles of the future.

Bob explains that he believes removing human error can minimize or eliminate the injuries, fatalities and costs associated with car crashes.

Perhaps it can also serve as a model for like-minded DOT’s.