21 Nov 2019

Road Safety Week; Safety-Led Road Technology

One of the themes of Road Safety Week is design-led technology which can help to prevent tragedies. We decided to look in more detail at some of the amazing, proven solutions that allow us all to get around the roads in safer and healthier ways.

We found so many interesting ideas that we’ve split them into two. Here we look at technology making the roads safer.

Every 20 mins, someone is killed or seriously injured on a British road and each of these tragedies is preventable.”



Safety technology in vehicles

New cars are now fitted as standard with touchscreen command centres, apps and smart safety features which not only aid safer driving but mean that people are safer in cars than they’ve ever been in the history of driving. Other potentially life-saving applications of technology include:

Ignition Interlock Devices: These are devices which require an action from the driver to prove their fitness to drive in order to release the ignition and allow the car to start. The main example is a breathalyser which can be programmed with the allowable alcohol limit and requires the driver to blow into it before allowing the car to start. If the driver is over the limit, the vehicle will lock and will not be drivable for a set amount of time. The device can also request retests while the vehicle is in motion, which if the driver fails, results in the horn and alarms of the car sounding until the car is pulled over and stopped. Following a decision by the European Council, all new cars launched from 2022 will have to be equipped with speed limiting equipment and the wiring for in-built breathalysers.

Advances in vehicle automation: Developments such as adaptive cruise control, which means your vehicle automatically maintains a constant distance from the car in front, and autonomous emergency braking such that your car brakes automatically when it senses something in the road, or alters the speed dependent upon the road conditions and weather, make cars safer as we head towards self-driving technology. Other automation includes:

  • Evasive steering, which kicks in when braking alone is not sufficient to prevent an accident by altering the direction of travel from the steering wheel. As drivers tend to panic as they can see the potential of an accident occurring, it takes over to provide the least impactful result
  • Lane assist; this is an in-car system that alerts the driver when the car drifts out of its motorway lane with something like a buzzer, vibrating seat or even gently nudging the steering wheel back to the centre of the lane
  • Reverse park assist, which tells your car to parallel park for you at the touch of a button
  • Electronic stability control; this not only controls the car’s engine and brakes to mitigate the effects of a skid, but also detects when it is likely to happen.

Motion Detection systems: As well as alerting you to the fact that an intruder may be approaching your vehicle, these also detect when the key holder is near the car allowing helpful actions such as for lights to turn on guiding the way on dark nights or opening the boot so that heavy loads can easily be lifted in.

Cameras and blind spot detection: The latest cameras and external car detectors allow the driver to monitor the view from every angle of the outside of their car. Increased visibility and awareness for any driver, especially those of larger vehicles, reduces the chance of accidents with vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists.

Rear cross-traffic assist: These sensors monitor the road either side of the reverse of a vehicle, providing a visible and audible warning of any potential hazards as the vehicle reverses.

Adaptive lights: Reducing the chances of blinding other drivers and assisting the driver, these lights turn their beam towards the direction of travel as the steering wheel is turned.

Speed limits that reflect the safety of the roads

Increasing the range of speed limits, such as encouraging 20 mile per hour zones rather than just 30 as well as having signage allowing the speed limit to change dependent upon the road conditions, can all have a hugely positive impact on the safety of roads. Countries now monitor traffic flow using road sensors and use the information gathered to alter speed limits where appropriate. This is generally used more on motorways where ‘smart motorways’ use digital signage to warn drivers of changes and potential dangers in a matter of seconds from an alert.

There is also an increased awareness of the factors which can impact the risk of an accident for cars on a particular road, allowing better judgement in setting speed limits in the first place. Setting of limits now includes consideration of the road function, the geometric design of the road and the speed that the majority of drivers will actually drive at on that road. The next phase of road risk research aims to provide the same analysis and resultant safe speeds for two-wheeled and heavy goods vehicles.

Roads and road furniture

Traffic lights: Since the first set of traffic lights was introduced in London in 1868, the design has gradually developed to include the latest technology. The most current suggestions include:

  • Changing the shape of the lights dependent on the type of intersection, which could make them more intuitive
  • Multi-functional, modernistic designs to make them more eye-catching and allow them to do more in one place such as integrating street lighting
  • Smart traffic lights, which use solar power, LED lights and inform of speed limits, road conditions and the weather. They can also streamline the flow of traffic dependent upon the amount of traffic, allow emergency vehicles priority and integrate security cameras to monitor dangerous road use
  • Colour-blind safe versions, which standardise shape with the usual colours to decrease the chance of confusion
  • Lights that inform drivers of how long they are likely to be stopped at traffic lights so that they can then turn off their engine if they have time, and some designs would force engines to turn off at traffic lights and automatically start them in time for the green light. This would assist in preventing accidents at crossings where cars jump red lights as pedestrians are crossing
  • Lasers at crossings which block the way for pedestrians until it is safe to cross.

Glow in the dark road markings: Luminescent paint, charged by solar energy during the day, used for road markings, has more visibility at night than standard road markings without requiring electricity.

For more on Winn Solicitors Road Safety Week activities, visit our Campaign page at: Road Safety Week 2019


Sources and further information:











Share this article

Back to News