Engineering - Donegal County Council

By: Donegal  05/12/2011
Keywords: Road Safety, safety issues

Engineering

Donegal County Council is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of our roads. Donegal has a total of 6,270km of roads, with over 5,000km of these classified as local roads. This is one of the longest road networks of any local authority. In the last number of years vast improvements have been made to the road network in Donegal. However over the same period of time we have also seen large increases in the numbers of vehicles on our roads and also in the numbers of new homes, which all place an added burden on the road infrastructure.


 


The winter period as identified by the department of the Environment, heritage and local government extends from the 1st November to the 30th April each year. During this time Donegal County Council use ice detection and prediction equipment to monitor the road network and determine whether to carry out salting or not.

Donegal County Council within the resources available endeavours to maintain major traffic routes in the County in a passable condition, to comply with the Department of the Environment’s Publication “Memorandum on Maintenance of Essential Services in Severe Weather Conditions (Nov. 2000)”. Currently this involves salting aproximately 1200km of road including all of the National Primary and National Secondary roads.

 


Donegal County Council continues to maintain and improve the road network on an annual basis. These works are normally managed by the local area staff. In many cases this work will involve the realignment of the existing road network to incorporate additional road safety features or a more favourable road alignment. Each major road improvement scheme which is subject to part 8 planning procedures is also subject to a road safety audit. The road safety audit is a process for checking proposed schemes for the safety of all road users. It attempts to identify any potential hazards and makes practical and constructive recommendation to aleviate any potential problems.

 


A Road Safety Audit is a process for checking the safety of new scheme on roads. It will examine the safety of a proposed scheme from all road users point of view: Drivers, motorcyclists, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.

The safety audit will highlight potential safety issues and will make recommendations on how to improve the situation. The recommendations made will be practical and constructive and in most cases they will be easy to implement.

Road Safety Audits are undertaken on all new major road schemes and on many new housing developments. Advice on the road safety audit process is available in the NRA’s Design Manual for Roads and Bridges. This document also sets out the qualification procedure for becoming a road safety auditor. Donegal County Council has a team of qualified road safety auditors but also utilises the expertise within the NRA’s safety audit team when appropriate Schemes that have undergone Road Safety Audit are not only safer, but may also improve the quality of life for those using the development.

 


These are small jobs that are designed to treat local areas with a road safety hazard. They types of works vary as they are site specific to the hazards found at that location. Low cost remedial works can be broken down into three categories listed below.

NRA Low Cost Remedial works

These schemes are funded by the National Roads Authority to address locations on National Roads with a treatable problem and a proven accident history. Donegal County Council makes an annual application to the NRA for this funding for up to 10 schemes usually costing between €3,000 and €30,000. As part of the application evidence must be provided to illustrate the nature of the problem and the accident history.

DoEHLG Low Cost Remedial Works

These schemes are funded by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to address locations on Non National Roads with a treatable problem and a proven accident history. Donegal County Council makes an annual application to the DoEHLG for this funding for up to 10 schemes usually costing between €3,000 and €30,000. As part of the application evidence must be provided to illustrate the nature of the problem and the accident history.

Own Resources

These monies made available from the County Council’s own resources to treat localised problems where there is a clear identified hazard. These are usually schemes that would not normally qualify for NRA or DoEHLG funding. The schemes can be located on either National or Non National Roads. In recent years Donegal County Council has allocated a considerable funds to this programme with over € ½ million allocated in 2005 and 2006 alone. These works have undoubtedly made a big improvement to the road network in places where there were identifiable hazards and would not normally qualify for this type of funding.

 


There are many different types of traffic calming most of which are only suitable for urban areas. Donegal County Council use national guidelines together with local expertise to ensure that if traffic calming measures are provided, then they are the right measures for that location. The following is a summary of the types of measures that Donegal County Council can provide.

Speed ramps

These are probably the best known type of all the traffic calming measures and consist of a ramped area that runs across the entire length of the road. These can be useful in controlling traffic speeds in a localised area but are better used in a series. However they can pose problems for longer vehicles such as busses and can affect the reaction times of emergency service vehicles. This type of measure is best used in residential areas and can be modified to incorporate pedestrian crossing points.

Speed tables

This is a large ramped area usually at a junction. Again they use the full width of the road but will have a large flat area between the ramped sections. They have similar benefits and drawbacks as speed ramps and are best confined to residential areas.

Speed cushions

These are small ramps placed in the centre of a running carriageway. They are ramped at the entry and exit points and along the sides. This type of measure does not affect long vehicles or emergency vehicles in the same way as their wider wheelbases can pass on the ramped side sections of the cushion. Whilst these measures are better than ramps on busier roads, they would not be appropriate for major thoroughfares.

Road hatching

Used on wider roads to reduce the width of carriageway available for passing vehicles. This is particularly useful measure in urban areas especially when combined with refuge islands. Although hatching does not physically restrict the speeds of passing vehicles, it does send a psychological message to motorists that there is less room available than they think, this has been proven to affect traffic speeds. Hatching also provides a useful area in which a vehicle can pull into (either partially or wholly) when turning right.

Refuge islands

These are islands placed in the centre of a carriageway that physically restrict the width of road available for passing vehicles. These islands also provide a place for pedestrians to take refuge so that they can cross the road in stages. Refuge island are most suited to urban areas and should have adequate street lighting.

Build outs

Again this type of measure physically restricts the area of the road available for passing vehicles. This type of measure is beneficial for pedestrians as it reduces the distance involved when crossing the road and as the pedestrians stands further into the road so they have better visibility. This type of measure can also provide recessed on street car parking. Again this type of measure is more suited to an urban environment.

Chicanes

This is alternating build outs on different sides of the road. These measures can be installed in such a way that traffic travelling in one direction has to stop and give way to vehicles coming on the opposite direction. To be effective this measure requires fairly high traffic flows to ensure that a vehicle is likely to meet an oncoming vehicle. Again this type of measure is only suitable for urban areas that are not major thoroughfares.

Rumble devices

These can either be a series of raised strips painted along the road that cause vibration within the vehicle or a cobbled type area that creates a noise when driven across. The rumble strips are normally used on higher speed roads usually in rural areas and should be away from private dwellings. The cobbled effect is more for low speed urban environments and can be useful for entry treatments and can have maintenance issues.

Entry treatments

These can be a combination of measures that advise the motorists that they are entering a different road environment. They can comprise of a number of different measures such as signs, build outs, ramps or coloured surfacing used in isolation or together. This type of measure could be used at entry points to residential, commercial or industrial area.

Gateways

A form of entry treatment, these are a group of measures that advise the motorist that they are leaving the open road and entering a town or village. These are usually associated with a change in the speed limit. The NRA provides advice on how this measure should be applied so that a consistent approach is taken nationwide.

Problems with traffic calming

Care must be taken when providing traffic calming measures to ensure that the measures do not cause problems. Inappropriate measures can be very unpopular and bring into disrepute other more suitable measures in the area. Before measures are considered the extent of the problem should be assessed and the opinions of local resident gauged to find a way forward. Whilst there is no legal requirement to consult on the provision of traffic calming features it is good practice to do so before implementation. Consultation should be with local businesses and residents, haulage firms, bus service providers, all emergency services and any other parties that may be affected. Residents should be advised of both the positives and negatives of the proposed scheme. Full consideration should be given to any responses received from the consultation process as valid points may be raised at a time when they can be easily remedied and mistakes avoided. However when considering any responses consideration must also be given to the greater good any why traffic calming measures where considered in the first instance.

 


Donegal County Councils continues to provide improved pedestrian facilities through out the county. This is done in many forms from improving existing infrastructure to providing new facilities. These types of measures include footpaths, footbridges, dropped kerbs, refuge islands, zebra and pelican crossings.

For safety reasons care must be taken when providing controlled crossings such as zebra and pelican crossings to ensure that the correct measure is used in the correct position. The NRA Design Manual for Roads and Bridges gives guidance on the assessment criteria for the provision these features. This Guidance will be considered by Donegal County Council when assessing the suitability of a location for a controlled crossing. 

Keywords: Road Safety, safety issues

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