Safety awards highlight road improvement improvements
If you're like most people, you missed the recently awarded and highly prestigious 2013 Innovation Awards, bestowed by the American Traffic Safety Services Association. I can't blame you. It's the end of awards season, after all; we all have awards fatigue, and the red carpet event beforehand was, to be honest, less than groundbreaking. (On the plus side, the production numbers were highly superior to those on typical awards shows, in that there were no production numbers.)
But the awards themselves are worth paying attention to. The American Traffic Safety Services Association, or ATSSA, gives these awards every year to three companies with new products that promote safety on the roadways. According to the ATSSA, most of these products, even the newest and most innovative, tend to be taken for granted. Motorists pass them every day without realizing the role that they're playing in keeping them, and people who work on the road, safe. So without further ado, let's give these products a little time in the spotlight:
Third place: LTS-100 and LTS-200, by LimnTech Scientific, Inc.
These two beauties represent the first-ever GPS-based mechanized vision systems for the roadway marking industry. The LTS-100 is for making roadway markings on newly repaved roads. Before the road is repaved, the LTS-100 is driven along the road at highway speeds, and its internal GPS system and dedicated image processor capture the location, size, and shape of each marking on the road. After the repaving is done, the same system can be used to replicate all of the markings that were on the old road. The LTS-200 uses a similar system for inspecting and maintaining road markings.
If you've ever seen people on the highway doing this work manually, then you know that it causes extended delays and puts the people doing the work perilously close to fast-moving traffic. I for one am very relieved to know that from now on, this work can be done by people wielding sophisticated machinery instead of measuring tapes.
Second place: The Solar Flood Warning/Reroute System, by Traffic and Parking Control, Inc. (TAPCO)
. These are a system of LED "Blinkersigns" (i.e., signs illuminated by flashing lights to get your attention) equipped with sensors that detect water rise. When the sensors are tripped by a certain level of rise, they activate the signs automatically (they can be activated remotely as well).
If you've ever approached a water-covered roadway and wondered if it was safe to proceed, you can see immediately why this is such a great innovation. Flash flooding can arise so quickly (that is why they call it that, after all) that you can't always assume that a road is safe to drive on because a road isn't closed, or marked hazardous. It may have been safe ten minutes ago, but is now dangerous. But with signs that are activated by the water itself, you know the warning system reflects actual up-to-the-moment conditions.
And taking the first place prize: ROSA (Remote Operated Safety Attendant), by Roundspring Technologies!
Roundspring's own description of ROSA is both priceless and poignant: it's "an innovative flagger's tool used to control traffic from the 'safe zone' – away from imminent danger, verbal abuse and adverse weather conditions." Whoa! I'm totally down with a remotely operated flagger's tool, of course—the proximity of road flaggers to traffic is something that causes me anxiety whenever I see them, even though they always look supremely unconcerned. And goodness knows I don't want them out in the weather. After all, every one of them was somebody's baby once.
But verbal abuse? Who are these people verbally abusing road flaggers? And why? Are they under the impression that the flaggers have personally made the decision that work needs to be done on the road right when we happen to be using it? Would they prefer not to be flagged down and warned to stop if they're about to barrel into a jack hammer operator or a dump truck? Get flagged, people.
Anyway, these all look like great innovations, easily worthy of the awards bestowed, great ideas perfectly executed... except I suggest that ROSA be equipped with a Taser. She'll know when the time is right.