A Flaw In Street Design May Be Costing Lives – Cheddar Explains


In 2015, an urban planner in Arkansas created this meme, Which street is safer? They’re both residential streets with a 20 mile per hour speed limit. But while this street was designed to be more forgiving to drivers, this is actually the safer street. So, why have we been building so many streets like this one over the past 50 years? In 2017, traffic deaths hit a 25-year-high of 40,000 fatalities. Six thousand of those killed were pedestrians. Cities across the country are trying to reduce traffic fatalities with safety campaigns. One of the keys to the whole problem might be a flawed mid century design philosophy. There was a big transportation safety movement in the 1960s. This is when we saw the development of airbags and crash tests. In 1965, Ralph Nader published a book about the designed-in dangers of cars and roads. He accused car companies of resisting safety improvements in order to cut costs. The book was a best seller. It led to Senate hearings, which then led to the creation of the Department of Transportation, which eventually led to the creation of the National Highway Safety Administration. There were two key testimonies during congressional safety hearings in 1966 that paved the way for a flawed approach to street design. One was Ralph Nader. Where our safety laws had previously been about enforcing safe driving behaviors like following the speed limit, Nader’s testimony led to a shift in thinking. He said, “Even if people have accidents, even if they make mistakes, even if they are looking out the window or they are drunk, we should have a second line of defense for these people. The sequence of events that leads to an accident injury can be broken by engineering measures, even before there is a complete understanding of the causal chain.” The other key testimony came from a senior engineer at General Motors. Ken Stonex helped GM Design a so-called crash proof highway test site called ” The Proving Ground”. What happens when a front tire blows at 90 miles an hour? Let’s find out. Perfect control, basic built-in stability. The proving ground had wide clearances, 100 feet on either side of the roadway, as a safety measure for drivers. Crash data from the proving ground showed that most cars that ran off the road came to a stop within 30 feet. The committee at the hearing seized on this data. One of the main sources of traffic fatalities at the time was single vehicles running off the road and colliding with a fixed object like a tree or light post. Stonex testified that we should operate 90 percent or more of our surface streets just as we do our freeways, and that we should convert streets to proving ground road and roadside conditions. By 1967, the 30-foot clear zone was adopted into the official standard for road design. The Nader and stonex testimonies reflect a bigger idea called ” Forgiving Design”. The thinking goes,”No driver is infallible, mistakes will be made. So, let’s design our roads and streets with that in mind to be as forgiving as possible when a driver does make inevitable errors, they’ve got plenty of room to regain control.” The critical flaw in this thinking, this design doesn’t account for how drivers would adjust their behavior in a forgiving environment. A forgiving environment has wide clear shoulders, wide straight travel ways, high visibility. But when you drive on a street like this, something happens. Your brain perceives this as a safe environment. So, even if the posted speed limit is 20 miles an hour, that subconscious feeling of safety means your speed tends to creep up and up. If you remember drivers Ed, you remember, speed kills. He always draw too fast and that’s what caused the accident. When you’re hit by a car going 20 miles an hour, nine out of 10 times you’ll survive. But as speed increases, the numbers get pretty grim. So, urbanists and safety advocates are trying to get us to think about how we can slow drivers down when we’re not on highways. Streets like this one with its tree canopy and narrow lanes were actually outlawed when The Forgiving Design Movement took hold. This street looks and feels more hazardous to a driver. You don’t have great visibility, you have to weave around parked cars in a narrow lane, sensing the inherent risk in the environment, you tend to take things a little slower, no matter what the posted speed limit says. Does this mean that Stonex’s proving ground data was totally wrong? Not at all. But he and other transportation engineers collapsed an important distinction. There’s a difference between roads and streets. Roads are simply about connecting to places. They’re designed to facilitate speedy, efficient movement. Streets are about building place and economic value. So, over the last decade, urbanists have begun to call into question the old forgiving design philosophy. Forgiving design is forgiving to drivers at high speeds on highways and arterial roads, but it’s not the safest design for urban streets where you’ve also got to think about pedestrians and cyclists. It’s a case of the design not matching up with the use. But now that Urbanists have pointed out the problem, we’re starting to see a return to design elements that subconsciously encourage drivers to take it slow. Thanks so much for watching. Hit the comments to let us know if you had any examples of excellent or a terrible road design where you live, and hit the bell icon to be notified next time we post a video. See you next time.

100 comments

  • Penguins

    Like Ralph Nader the guy that ran for president like 4 times.

    Reply
  • DejaVu64

    such a drawn out video for such little pertinent information. lets add 11 minutes of fluff and the 30 seconds of actually getting to the point.

    Reply
  • D C

    So we suck, that’s basically what I’m getting from this

    Reply
  • NG DALI

    American traffic laws have 2 flaws. First a 16 year old shouldn't drive and second the process to get a driver's license should be harder. Not every idiot needs to drive. Also we should take away the driving license of anyone who goes over the speed limit.

    Reply
  • wasabi

    if it was more difficult to get your license maybe there would be less vehicle related deaths. you hardly have to be qualified to legally drive, at least here in oregon. i don’t know if it varies from state to state or not.

    Reply
  • Dèh oet Gäöl

    I suggest you look at the dutch woonerf which has been going strong sinds the 70's or 80's

    Reply
  • Stéphane Perras

    Optimus Prime at 5:58! Roads are safe with him.

    Reply
  • Azulmine

    Why do the cadence in voice over in these videos all sound the same?

    Reply
  • mikatu

    Switzerland does that for years and years…. they even put park spaces for trucks in the middle of the driving lane…. no kidding.

    Reply
  • Doug Grinbergs

    Please help spread the good word of #VisionZero practices to reduce bike/ped fatalities, serious accident injuries.

    Reply
  • Daniel Solow

    I’d like to nominate the Conduit / Sunrise Highway (NY-27) as it is one Long Island’s longest arterial roads but is among the state’s deadliest!

    Reply
  • Ray Losoya

    Did AI create this video? This information is unforgiving.

    Reply
  • Nathan Miles

    Terrible road design? How about 4 way traffic, with a 3 way stop? Or a T intersection with a left turn having right of way? Or multiple 5+ way intersections with truly blind corners.

    Reply
  • Kounter

    speed bumps

    Reply
  • erdvilla

    Similar to putting redundant turns in LONG straight sections of highway, otherwise drivers just fall asleep or speed up without realizing.

    Reply
  • Jaspreet Takhar

    This is perfect

    Reply
  • extremponiforever Oreos

    Either road system won’t work the intended way it’s implemented you can’t cater roads to trick the intellectually deficient. How about cut this shit at the root of the problem and don’t let every single person with a single brain cell get a license or people with bad vision or people who don’t understand the physics behind a car whatsoever.

    Reply
  • Mike Oxlong

    Urban planner 1: Wide clearances make this road safer than a narrow road
    Urban planner 2: WELL YES BUT ACTUALLY NO

    Reply
  • Meya Enyo

    It's because cities use city planners which is a useless job and jsut wastes money.

    Reply
  • Mark Carrasca

    Speed limits are set lower than the speeds they were designed for, which causes drivers to drive faster. There are other ways of improving pedestrian safety rather than lowering speed limits.

    Reply
  • kumikey

    Took a while to get to the point, but interesting non the less!

    Reply
  • directfunebru

    good, fuck those people ☠☠☠

    Reply
  • catty cat queen

    Just make roads that screech if speed is over limt

    Reply
  • boom

    Bring back the horse and cart.

    Reply
  • David Bray

    There is no safe road while humans are at the wheel. Get self driving cars on the road NOW!!

    Reply
  • Hope Rules

    This could not be more accurate.

    Reply
  • Another Guy

    Ok. But when the road is cramped up and the visibility is low that means you have to spend more effort to anticipate and correct an action. Wide roads have the advantage of seeing things more clearly and anticipating an accident becomes more easy than the cramped up road. I feel more confident in my driving in a wide road than the other one. So, I think maybe it’s a matter of opinion than a scientific or a logic thinking.

    Reply
  • Sam Smug

    DC streets in a nutshell

    Reply
  • HIMU SLAYYS

    Wow we stan Ralph paved the way (jk bts did)

    Reply
  • Samantha Brown

    I live in Arkansas and they're trying to destroy the street to my house with round abouts (like just taking up space in the road no intersection or anything some 5' round some 5'x7' doval WHY OVAL ) there are sidewalks but people just run on the shoulder for some reason? They also tried to narrow the road by painting it 3' margin on either side and of course some random stop signs

    I'm pretty sure they think all that's going to slow people down and discourage through traffic but bitch please I hit that round about at 45 in a 30 💁💁💁😬

    Reply
  • Tral Fazz

    Ralph Nader was a fucking idiot.

    Reply
  • rafi.rifath

    This is why in my village the lane only enough for one car, so when two car met head to head, they have to stop, and causing a jam, thus creating a safer environment for everyone, since nobody's moving

    Reply
  • shiinamafuyu

    Cheddar
    Good info, I watch
    I watch, I angry
    I love cheddar video but it is the speed of the presentation that don't let me press the subscribe

    Reply
  • DonthaveausernameLOL

    Decent points, shitty explanations. Also, Mr Stonex deserves 95% of the blame on his own

    Reply
  • Chris Moody

    Talk about a bunch of dribble. People need to learn to drive better. 45 yrs of driving and not one serious collision. Worst I’ve had; I back into my neighbors car on the street. Doh.

    Reply
  • Cosmina Arcos

    1:06 Really?!? You make a whole system of rules based on ONE book made by ONE guy?! Didn't even bother to research if it's true?

    Reply
  • TheLetsplaymine

    Morrisville, North Carolina is terrible for roads. Not in the case of safety, but that they’re too small for the amount of people driving on them. No matter what time of day, you’re gonna usually sit through like 1-2 light cycles before u can get thru. They’re doing construction constantly to widen roads for more lanes thankfully but they’re so behind the quickly expanding residential neighborhoods.

    Reply
  • Milokiss82

    aight but when my tiny ass smartcar can't get around one of those electric line clearers without BLOWING OUT MY TIRE ON THEIR EQUIPMENT, there's a problem

    Reply
  • EdGar Toepel

    Streets don't kill people, drivers do.

    Reply
  • Pingonaut. Thomas C.

    Why wasn’t the design problem explained FIRST?

    Reply
  • KatyushaRockets

    GOOD JOB NADER, you've doomed America

    Reply
  • Charles Mayes

    They are called chicanes and some communities have already started installing them.

    Reply
  • bigwaverider

    Paradise California Shrunk its streets from 4 lanes to two and blocked autos from accessing the bike and pedestrian lanes causing traffic jams when the residents were fleeing the fires. This caused many residents to die in their cars because they could not escape quickly enough.

    Reply
  • Fuert Neigt

    If it is 20 mph, they can keep it wider but put on speed bumps, speed bumps destroy cars that speed over them to the tune of completely destroying the underside and suspension. If the cost of destroying a few cars to saving hundreds of lives, it is a small cost to pay .002 cents per person to break only a few thousand dollars in parts. But if the cost is too much and it saves very little to no lives, then it should not be done obviously. Government makes no distinction and will always do harm in order to benefit a few to none.

    Reply
  • Weißbrot Waigmann

    0:19 I have no idea what you are talking about, never seen a street like that in my life

    Reply
  • Lil Trump

    I live next to the proving ground

    Reply
  • Asfand

    for once I actually appreciate UK roads because they are so tiny and cramp

    Reply
  • Sebastiaan Hoekstra

    Watching these cheddar videos makes me think about how stupid america is

    Reply
  • B S

    Why not have speed bumbs to slow drivers down. It has worked very well here in sweden to slow drivers down.

    Reply
  • hello hello

    That's not a meme…

    Reply
  • D.E.B. B

    As someone who has now been driving for 45 years, what I have seen is an increasing disregard for traffic laws and the safety of others. Pedestrians walk out into traffic more often, because they have been brought up in an era where children are taught that pedestrians always have the right of way, and just expect traffic to stop for them no matter what they do. 'City' style driving, without using directionals, has become more and more common as city dwellers move out to the suburbs due to higher prices in the urban areas.

    Reply
  • borgresearcher

    though u might want to stop comparing america to the rest of the world, not everyone is trash

    Reply
  • Nic Diaz

    So the problem aren’t the roads, it’s the drivers driving too fast? Thanks for wasting 6:40 on a 2 second video

    Reply
  • Aileen

    The other thing wrong with wide roads is perspective; things further away look like they're moving slower. So driving 20 on a narrow road feels faster than 20 on a wide road simply because of the perceived speed of the objects surrounding the car. So people will drive faster on wider roads because they feel like they're going too slow.

    Reply
  • Richard Foran

    Not sure i buy into this sub conscious baffle explanation. Drivers brains will react any which way. Just wait it out till self driving cars are standard then lets take into account space for wifi poles and other computerised systems which kewp these systems tip top and allow multiples poles etc for 5g and back ups in the event of systems down. So we need large roads in my humble option.

    More surface space gives pedestrians time to move out of the way in the event self driving cars lose control or are hacked. The new in fad in 2050. So much for droping rocks off freeways.

    Reply
  • salazizzle

    tl;dr – make streets narrower

    Reply
  • DayITL

    This was a really interesting video!

    Reply
  • Morahman7vnNo2

    Just another benefit of living in an old neighborhood.

    Reply
  • H x

    The bottom one looks like a 30kph street, while the top one is a weird hybrid that's wide enough to be 100kph, but it's unmarked and has roadside parking like it was 50kph.

    Also, the bottom one could be anywhere in the world, but the top one is just so painfully American. And I wouldn't want to live on that top road even if you gave me the house for free.

    Reply
  • Alice Moo

    Well that was really fucking boring

    Reply
  • Justus Whittington

    i don’t know if i agree, i live in rural virginia and in old town we have a lot of fatal accidents in parts of town with those low visibility, dodging around parked cars, areas. people get cocky once they know the terrain.

    Reply
  • Thomas P.

    Well so here's the other part of trying to slow down drivers, cars keep getting faster so we're gonna have to try to find some kind of middle ground.

    Reply
  • luxon4

    watch this at 3x speed. thank me later

    Reply
  • sumanjit arora

    I have the best road system

    Reply
  • Annie Lanier

    Starts at 3:29

    Reply
  • Shupshe

    I have no idea why anyone would reference Nader. He was an ambulance chaser that made a career on lies and physical impossibilities.

    Reply
  • Eliot Guerin

    I am an engineer. This video is a bit sensationalist bc the clear zone is mandatory for highways, but not residential roads. If you pay attention on an average residential road you will notice this.

    Reply
  • Tom M

    EXACTLY how much less safe is the street above? Because it seems like this point is glossed over

    Reply
  • Jerry Smooth

    this lady has a bad voice

    Reply
  • Esmeralda Rodriguez

    Speed bumps

    Reply
  • Art Martial

    I disagree with your claim that narrower streets will cause drivers to slow down……they don't….I have my own data….my daughter….she's got the proverbial lead foot…

    Reply
  • Adrianna Coleman

    Everybody drives SUV’s now and the impact point has been moved from the knees to the head and upper body. I think it has more to do with modern SUV design and height and less to do with the roads.

    Reply
  • Daiyuki117

    No, that's stupid. Go the speed limit and the design works. Go faster, and it doesn't. Don't exceed the design specs of your tools and they work fine. This is a human problem, not a design problem.

    Reply
  • S Oomkes

    We had a total of 613 in 2018 over here. Ya'll are wreckless

    Reply
  • dakrontu

    It is true that difficult roads make people slow down to compensate, ie to bring the risk down again, since the difficulty and therefore the risk of the road has increased it. So if you make all roads difficult, people will reduce speed to keep the risk down, the accident rate will be the same, and journeys will take longer. Also it stresses up drivers and makes them tire quickly. Tired drivers cause accidents. So what is the gain?

    Reply
  • MrPlayer1up

    The argument is that reducing visibility makes people drive safer? This is such a load of shit; people drive faster when they have higher visibility because they can see that they're not going to hit anyone. Where is the data that shows that the higher visibility road causes more accidents?

    Reply
  • Sid B

    I live in London, some of the roads are pretty narrow and have poor visibility. That doesn't stop massive trucks bombing it down the street, why do they do that? Because they have so much momentum that they won't get harmed if they hit something, it's not them who will be getting hurt, it's whoever they hit that will.

    The risk of them to get hurt is low, they can afford to do it, instead it's up to the pedestrians to be careful when crossing the street. It's pure selfishness. The only thing they need to watch out for is another truck.

    Reply
  • ShoutsWillEcho1

    Eh, I'd want an intersection with a clear view over one with bushes and foliage covering stuff.

    Reply
  • KaiTakApproach

    Please cite your sources…this is a direct ripoff of the book "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do" by Tom Vanderbilt. Also, choking vehicular traffic down to pedestrian levels is ridiculous.

    Reply
  • sumit lamba

    All streets in India are like the second one

    Reply
  • Baltico

    I see a problem with the raising deaths is that people are stupid using their phones while both driving and walking. We get too distracted nowadays and it's honestly sad.

    Reply
  • tube8h

    ah it goes back to the saying "when you make world idiot proof, the world just create better idiot."

    Reply
  • Ellie Joanna

    I wonder what mozerellas explanation would be

    Reply
  • LEFT4BASS

    There’s a similar problem with seat belts.

    Seat belts make drivers feel safer, which makes them drive more recklessly.

    Consequently, drivers who wear seat belts are more likely to survive a crash, but also more likely to cause one.

    Reply
  • Richard Ainsworth

    Correlation is not causality.

    Reply
  • BrokeAngler INC

    the prob is human.thats all

    Reply
  • Chalky

    Never really thought about it but yeah I do subconsciously feel I can drive faster on urban roads where I feel I can see all potential hazards.

    Reply
  • am74343

    There are so many fatalities because everyone is texting and talking on their cell phones!

    Reply
  • Nick Romeos

    I live right by the proving grounds

    Reply
  • balzarini51

    Ralph Nader is a fucking soybboi who ruined jeeps forever

    Reply
  • dalton lafitte

    Too bad she forgot to mention driving on a narrow road when it’s hilly. Not only do you have to drive slow but you also have to slightly pray that someone isint late to work and flying over the hills on the other side. Also… narrow roads make driving a lot slower if there’s construction or garbage trucks on it because you can’t just see ahead and squeeze past them

    Reply
  • Horatio Nelson

    Instead of making the streets less safe for drivers, just put in speeding cams

    Reply
  • mads k

    These vids take too long to get to the point

    Reply
  • Petr75661

    there should be no surface roads in towns. I vote for Asimov's moving walkways with express lanes.

    Reply
  • Republic Can

    "There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses." President Andrew Jackson
    No one can truly fail without government help. People that virtue signal do not usually have any virtue. This problem is people who can not build cars telling people who can buid cars how to do it. Dunning-Kruger effect!

    Reply
  • Ig Ja

    7min of nothing.

    Reply
  • No Bo

    going back in time isn't a solution to the inherent problem…..we already know that car accidents occurred back then and now

    Reply
  • Dick iller

    I am proud of my country for making gravel roads to make everyone safer.

    Go Russia 🇷🇺🇷🇺🇷🇺🇷🇺🇷🇺

    ₽ОССИЯ СВЯЩЕННАЯ НАША ДЕ₽ЖАВА

    Reply
  • ThomasG10mtn

    Take away driver front airbags, and replace them with a 10 inch shiny spike aimed right at the driver's face. Safest driver's….EVER!

    Reply
  • Tlahuicole XIII

    Does anyone one know why some residential area streets are curved instead of quadrants?

    Reply

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