Speed-reducing innovations drive safety on regional roads

A road with a road sign on the left

University of Adelaide’s Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR) is developing technology to reduce crashes at regional intersections and––in the words of CASR researcher Chris Stokes––“save lives.”

“People make mistakes, and at these regional intersections, a mistake can be deadly,” he said.

In fact, many regional intersections are on roads with speed limits at or above 100 km/h. At this speed, evidence shows that three out of every four crashes will result in a fatality or serious injury.
Unfortunately, safety measures such as installing a roundabout or adding turning lanes can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, so many local governments are unable to afford them. Dr Stokes and fellow researcher Dr Mario Mongiardini wanted to create safety infrastructure that saves lives and is still within financial reach.

“This is why we created the Rural Junction Active Warning System Lite (RJAWS Lite),” Dr Stokes said.

RJAWS Lite, which costs between $70K and $100K, works by detecting when a vehicle is approaching an intersection from a side road and then flashing a warning at the driver on the main road to slow down. The safety device has been proven to make regional intersections safer for drivers by reducing speeds through intersections by 7 km/h on average and lowering the likelihood of a fatal or serious injury crash by 26%.

“Even if the driver who should give way makes a mistake, the slower speeds prompted by RJAWS Lite will reduce the severity of a crash or even stop it from occurring at all,” Dr Stokes said. 

Due to the affordability of RJAWS Lite and its success in an on-road trial, the system is now being installed as permanent road safety infrastructure by the City of Onkaparinga at five intersections, and it has been recognised as a safety treatment for regional road intersections by the South Australian Department for Infrastructure and Transport.

The success of RJAWS Lite is just the latest achievement from CASR, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in late June. Other notable achievements of the University of Adelaide centre include developing Safe System learning content for the Victorian Transport Accident Commission that has inspired an annual competition, and contributing vehicle design regulation research to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Global Technical Regulations. CASR has saved countless lives through its research, crash investigations, vehicle testing, and service to the community.  

What’s next?

Thanks to RJAWS Lite’s effectiveness and its implementation in South Australia and the City of Onkaparinga, interstate road agencies are investigating the technology as a solution for their own challenges.

Additionally, the knowledge gained from deploying this system will also be used to create new road safety technologies, such as the Level Crossing Active Warning System (LCAWS), which will help reduce the risk of crashes between cars and trains at passive level crossings in regional areas.

As CASR heads into its sixth decade, Dr Stokes is proud of the work he and his colleagues have done.

“We have been able to create many unique solutions for the ongoing problem of safety on high-speed roads, and by doing so, we will hopefully save more lives now and into the future,” he said.

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