The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) was honored with a 2023 National Roadway Safety Award for demonstrating how increasing pavement friction helps motorists stop more quickly and retain better control at high-speed intersections.
As part of a pilot project started in 2020, FDOT added highly skid-resistant material to the road surface at three Hillsborough Avenue intersections in Tampa to see how much it would enable vehicles to come to a stop within a shorter distance. The goal was to reduce “improper stopping behavior,” such as vehicles ending up in crosswalks, which puts pedestrians and cyclists at risk.
Florida and other states had used specially engineered material to increase friction on curves to prevent vehicles from running off the road. However, this is believed to have been the first time a U.S. transportation agency has used intersection high-friction treatment to reduce stopping distances and study its effect on driver stopping behaviors at signalized intersections, as is done in some European countries.
FDOT’s two-year before-and-after study found that the increased friction reduced improper stopping behaviors at the three signalized intersections. On average, these reductions ranged from 11-31 percent compared to the pretreatment conditions.
“We want to be proactive,” said Pei-Sung Lin, the study’s principal investigator, who is also a program director at the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research. “If we can reduce risky driving behavior, that means we can reduce the potential for crashes. Better friction between tires and the pavement makes a big difference.”
“It works,” said Peter Hsu, who initiated the study as the FDOT District safety administrator for Tampa Bay. “It helps reduce stopping distance and improper stopping behaviors invading the crosswalks at signalized intersections.”
The findings are significant in a state where about 1,000 people die every year in intersection collisions. Between 2013 and 2022, about 27 percent of traffic fatalities and 35 percent of serious injuries statewide occurred at intersections.
FDOT’s pilot study team included the Federal Highway Administration and the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, as well as consultants Element Engineering Group and WDM USA.
The National Roadway Safety Awards, presented biannually since 1999, are sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration and the nonprofit Roadway Safety Foundation. Projects were evaluated on safety effectiveness, innovation and efficient use of resources.
For complete details on each of the winners and for more information on the national awards program, visit www.roadwaysafety.org/awards.