Safety Management

STOP: Are disability roadway warning signs effective and safe for continued usage in New Jersey? In Reserve

American Community Survey data (2015) shows that over ten percent of New Jersey's population has one or more disabilities, with increased prevalence rates for certain disabilities in recent years. For example, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that New Jersey has the highest rate of Autism Spectrum Disorder of any state in the nation, with one in every 41 NJ children affected with ASD. Protecting these often vulnerable roadway users is a statewide priority.

 

Over the past decade, disability-specific traffic/roadway warning signs targeted to protect our State's youth with disability have proliferated in municipalities throughout New Jersey and other states; however actual effectiveness of the signage in terms of safety and security of children and individuals with disability is unknown, as is their impact and influence on other roadway users. Entities including The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) typically discourage the use of these non-standard warning signs such as "Autistic Child Area" and "Deaf Child Area," amongst others. Many states do not officially permit the signs, however New Jersey does. One of the reasons the USDOT discourages the signs is that there has been no research to date demonstrating that these types of signs influence driver speed and/or crash rates.

 

A study should be undertaken to document the usage and evaluate the effectiveness of these disability-specific traffic/roadway warning signs in NJ. The findings and recommendations of the study will benefit all roadway users, persons with disability, policy makers and legislators in the state of New Jersey, and medical and transportation professionals. Given the virtually non-existent research conducted on this timely topic, the study's findings will have a profound and meaningful impact beyond the borders of New Jersey. The findings would serve to inform entities including the USDOT and FHWA on this topic so that implementation of such traffic warning signs nationwide can be used in the safest and most appropriate manner to benefit all roadway users.

Idea Submitted by Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure & Transportation (CAIT) & The Alan M Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC) at Rutgers University

List your Agency /Division / Bureau, County, City Univ. or Other Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Why is this a priority and what are the benefits for the State/County/City?

The prevalence of these types of roadway warning signs are evident throughout New Jersey in both urban and suburban locales, with families of persons with disability often encouraged to advocate for the sign placement in their respective community. However, are these signs effective in terms of meeting desired roadway safety goals? Does the presence of such signage influence driver speed and/or crash rates? Currently, these vital findings are unknown, yet disability-specific traffic/roadway warning signs continue to be utilized throughout New Jersey. A study evaluating the effectiveness of these warning signs should be prioritized, as findings will benefit all roadway users, persons with disability, as well as New Jersey policy makers, legislators, and medical and transportation professionals. Further, due to the lack of research on this topic, findings will also benefit state departments of transportation and safety professionals nationwide seeking to achieve safer, more accessible roadways for all users.

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Archive: 2018 Ideas
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Archive: 2018 Ideas
Idea No. 110