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BYU Researchers Help UDOT Pinpoint Safety Hotspots on Utah's Roads

UDOT crews work on applying a high-friction surface treatment to a high-risk curve of highway in Logan Canyon.

A group of researchers at Brigham Young University have developed an advanced traffic safety model that’s helping UDOT make Utah roads safer.

Grant Schultz is an associate professor of civil engineering at BYU. He was on the team of researchers that has spent the last 5 years developing the model. He says the tool will help the Utah Department of Transportation save lives.

“The ultimate goal is to try and help UDOT reach their goal of zero fatalities," Schultz says. "The way that it does that is to just try and help us pinpoint those areas where we should be putting our efforts in trying to save lives.”

Using Bayesian statistics, the model inputs about 30 variables about each accident around the state, such as the weather condition, the speed limit, and the curvature of the road, to predict the likelihood, or probability, of how many accidents will take place at a certain location. UDOT Safety Programs Engineer Scott Jones says the data helps them prioritize which projects to funnel taxpayer dollars toward.

“We’re responsible to be dedicated stewards and appropriately apply that money where it’s most needed, so being able to target the truly highest need, from a safety perspective, is really the purpose of the model,” Jones says.

The model has already yielded results. Based on its output UDOT officials noticed a high number of accidents occurring on a corner in Logan canyon and they have now applied a high friction surface treatment to make the road stickier.  

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