Grant P. Johnson, Registered Traffic Engineering in the State of California, has been taking on numerous expert witness cases for defense and plaintiff cases. A champion of safety, he has a common sense approach to finding the details needed to win the case on the merits of the evidence and potential for defense or liability.
An extension of Traffic Engineering,
Expert Witness Research and Testimony
Grant P. Johnson, TE is a registered Traffic Engineer in the State of California, the only state in the union with this special distinction. Now a requirement of many government jurisdictions to qualify traffic studies, the Traffic Engineer is being asked to sign documents as an authority on the subject of all things pertaining to traffic and regulation. In Expert Witness testimony and research, the title of Traffic Engineer enhances credibility.
He is currently working on several cases as an Expert Witness throughout Northern, Central, and Southern California cities and counties, including working with Caltrans.
PRISM's custom design actually helped to slow speeds through installation of special striping and pavement markings, using the available pavement space to relocate striping, adjust the stop bars to better locations, and better define the travel pathways (less ambiguous) to achieve smoother flows of vehicles and bikes. PRISM creates movies from our videos to clearly show the complete picture from many viewpoints.
Using this capability to quickly make the movie, we can showcase how drivers behave in the accident location, good or bad behavior, which helps to establish the patterns with visual proof. All accident records in the vicinity are researched to see if there are significant data or not, to show a pattern of similar accidents.
Mr. Johnson is an expert in regulation and design standards such as the MUTCD and related materials and manuals on lighting, road and intersection design. He can determine if a roadway has been properly or improperly designed, and also knows the traffic engineering law and principles of safety related to all traffic control devices in use today. He also personally drives through the site and inspects traffic conditions and sight distance from the drivers point of view, to make a determination if there are factors related to safety compromises or safety enhancements for all drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
His engineering work in China enhanced specific skills for great attention to detail. In the physical transportation world, he has extensive experience in checking complex plans for construction of China's major High Speed Rail projects dealing with regulations and standards and safety conditions.
Given the top inspection responsibility there on site as the Chief Site Engineer (CSE), he was in responsible charge of all quality control and safety on a 70 kilometer section of high speed rail construction, a new HSR rail line connecting Beijing to Shenyangin Northern China. The job included:
As a part of the job, surprise inspections in the field were conducted to make sure plans were followed closely by construction companies, and to document all activities and exceptions for correction by photo and video on the numerous variety of construction sites. Regular formal meetings were held with the national HSR authorities in the Communist government, where he reported on compliance on the site and for all aspects of construction and safety protocols, as well as quality of materials. He kept a daily journal, a spreadsheet database, and prepared weekly extensive reports written in English and in Chinese Mandarin officially documenting all of this information for the government.
Grant says: "The work was challenging and trained my eye for looking for all details of transportation construction, and installations of what was done right and what was done incorrectly."
When I examine the transportation systems in the US where an accident took place, whether it be a bike, a pedestrian, a train, freeway, city street, or two-lane highway, I'm looking for the big picture of whether the traffic control or road design or construction was done properly with safety in mind, according to the accepted design standards such as the AASHTO Green Book, the MUTCD, or from Engineering Judgment by Inspection and Analysis and Experience.
One of the drawbacks to green alternatives in automobiles is the extreme amount of amps it takes to run a heater than can compete with the heat given from an internal combustion engine. The electric cars must drain the battery to run a heater, and according to tests, extreme winter coldness can cut the range by HALF. What this means, is that it takes as much energy to run the heater as is does to actually run and move the car! With the internal combustion engine alternative, the heater is run just fine from merely an offload transfer of heat from the cooling system fluid passing through a heat transfer box in the cab. Compare that "free heat" to running COILS that glow orange with a fan to blow air past it in the electric vehicle, an energy cost you paid for the night before when you charged your electric car. Like running 10 blow dryers at the same time to heat the car!! Think what kind of cost that is. I would think twice before using that kind of energy on myself for heat, because AFTER ALL, we would be paying for that car heat specifically, charging our hypothetical electric car right out of our own electrical bill for our home. Would you run 10 blow dryers at home to heat yourself temporarily in a small space that has lots of glass windows continually getting cooled by freezing winds against the glass? In an electric car, that's what takes place. Your electric bill is going right out the windows. In a gas powered car? It's a "free" heat, going to be used one way or another, so there is no additional loss from using gas.
"If an EV requires 40 kWh to recharge a fully depleted battery, and the rate is 18 cents per kWh, that's $7.20 for a fill-up. Depending on the Southern California Edison rate plan, a 2018 Tesla Model 3, rated at 26 kWh/100 miles, would cost as little as $1.56 for 50 miles' worth of power if home charging started at 11 p.m. Or it could cost four times as much, $6.37, if the car was routinely charged during peak hours." (source: EDMUNDS.COM)
Transportation is changing rapidly. The United States Department of Transportation has a new plan released to fast-track the adoption of autonomous vehicles. It is at the doors already. By adjusting the "standards" for vehicle safety to remove certain items like steering wheels, foot pedals, etc., a truly autonomous car can be made, taking the human driver element and removing it altogether!
Under current US safety rules, a motor vehicle must have traditional controls, like a steering wheel, mirrors, and foot pedals, before it is allowed to operate on public roads. But that could all change under a new plan released on Thursday by the Department of Transportation that’s intended to open the floodgates for fully driverless cars.
The department, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “intends to reconsider the necessity and appropriateness of its current safety standards” as applied to autonomous vehicles, the 80-page document reads. In particular, regulators say they will look to change those safety standards “to accommodate automated vehicle technologies and the possibility of setting exceptions to certain standards — that are relevant only when human drivers are present.”
PRISM Engineering sees the whole landscape changing, and rapidly. The status quo in transportation planning is outdated already. Traffic Engineers and Transportation Planners are going to be updating all of their methods to morph into what will be the future of transportation: autonomous smart and programmed driverless vehicles. It is going to require a wholesale revision to street systems, sidewalks, bike paths, and freeway systems. It is going to see a repurposing of roadways that only need 7 foot lanes instead of 12, unless the width of the vehicles are widened to 10 feet, which would be nice. Vehicles are going to travel much closer together, much much closer, so you will have a greatly enhanced capacity, and if travel demand remains the same, you are going to see all congestion completely disappear. Capacity will be increased, 10 fold, or an order of magnitude.
Bike and Pedestrian Fatalities Higher than Ever in USA. Current Methods of Safety Not Working to Reduce Fatalities
If there are 37,000+ vehicle related deaths each year in the USA, and Pedestrians account for 15% of these, and they used to be only 11%, then this 4% increase represents 1,500 MORE pedestrian deaths each year compare to just 10 years ago. The 37,000+ number is also at a peak.
Obviously, whatever is the mainstream safety push for transportation is not working to even bring down the number of fatalities each year in the USA, in fact, it is going the opposite direction. Current methods are clearly not working and should be reconsidered as a whole. Nobody quite understands this counter-intuitive result, but the Governor's Highway safety Association is aware of it. Here is what they are saying:
"IT IS ALARMING," says GHSA* executive director Jonathan Adkins, "and it's counter-intuitive." (*Governor's Highway safety Association).
We need to pay attention to the facts, the accident history. "There's been an assumption that, because of increased safety of vehicles as we move toward semi-autonomous vehicles, that traffic deaths were going to go down," Adkins says. "We're seeing just the opposite, unfortunately, with a particular spike as it relates to pedestrians and cyclists."
from NPR's Pedestrian Fatalities Remain At 25-Year High For Second Year In A Row:
New traffic methods for PEDS/Bikes have not moved the needle. They LOOK good, but... Cycle Tracks and XWalks are not solving it. PED bridges are not cutting the fatalities (UP! to 40k / year in USA) ...no improvements! "Vision Zero" as currently envisioned seems beyond reach. We need new Engineered & real solutions that will eliminate mixing of vulnerable travel modes with vehicles. J-Walkers, PEDS crossing paths with vehicles, cyclists mixing with cars/trucks assuming safety, while traveling along side some incompetent or risk-taking drivers: HUMAN factors... and not Improving.
The assumption that any kind of "new and improved" traffic control device specifically for PEDS or BIKES will make them safer needs to be questioned, since the accident fatality data does not bear this out. The needle has been moving in just the opposite direction, and we can no longer assume that more striping, different striping, or even complete streets will make pedestrians safer. What needs to happen is a realization that MORE pedestrians mingled with Vehicles on roadways where cars/trucks can hit people directly, is turning out to be a dangerous thing.
UBER Autonomous Car FAILED in 2018, but...given ANY other car, the same accident would have happened.
Yes, this UBER car completely FAILED to even slow down, BUT... a human would have failed to slow down too, in fact, by the time a human could have possibly even seen this pedestrian, they could not get their foot on the brake in time, or swerve the wheel in time. Read on...
Bloomberg Forensic crash analysts who reviewed the video said a human driver could have responded more quickly to the situation. Really?
Bloomberg Analyst states that UBER car should have detected pedestrian in median, and BRAKED. Really?
There is a lot of LIABILITY to go around here, in Road Design, in Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety too.
Maybe it is just me, but this median is attractive. It actually looks like a park.
It looks like park with trees and pathways and rocks.
It looks inviting. But its in the wrong location. And at night, there is a serious problem with lighting in the wrong places, and pathways leading to a JWALK situation without a crosswalk or warning signs. At the ground level, it is confusing for both pedestrians and drivers who may see a ped crossing in a strange place, unexpected.
A Dead-End sidewalk, with no safe way out, and no warnings for peds already in the median.
Sure, there is a sign there that says NO PEDESTRIANS and USE CROSSWALK (see photo below), but look at what direction it is facing. It is facing west, perpindicular to the sidewalk, to warn pedestrians on the other sidewalk to not come over into the median. In other words, if you are a pedestrian from the bridge on that side of this one way segment of road, you will not see this sign. You have no warnings on the bridge. In fact, if a pedestrian tried to view this sign they might interpret it to mean, "continue forward to the crosswalk" (in the direction of the arrow) rather than cross to leave the median. Then the pedestrian has this beautiful paved brick pathway that leads them, not to a crosswalk, but to a curb, faced with a decision to cross four lanes of high speed traffic without a crosswalk, without a warning, without a street light.
I can see many pedestrians making a serious mistake with this kind of design and lack of guidance. I believe there is serious liability here.
Architects, Planners and Engineers in their quest to make beautiful transportation facilities need to also think about safety in design and how the user will use the feature or facility. They must also think about if the transportation "art" is confusing, especially from a safety standpoint. This particular design should have had fences, no paved pathways to confuse, and certainly some guidance to peds. The pathways in no case should have connected directly to the curbs of the roadway as if to lead a pedestrian there. The bridge should not have encouraged pedestrians to use the median side of the bridges, as this can only lead to this dead end, on both bridges!
Also, a pedestrian seeing a paved pathway, a short cut, and a sign that says in effect "don't use me" is a very mixed message.
Grant Johnson, TE
Sources: All street view and aerial photos from Google Maps. Illustrations by Grant Johnson, TE
Often depicted in way over simplified conceptual drawings, the Autonomous Vehicle is consistently misunderstood.
Autonomous Vehicles: In order for there to be compelling reason to incur the impact and expense of potentially retooling the entire vehicle industry, there would need to be compelling improvements to safety, capacity / efficiency, as well as the environment. The autonomous vehicle has in principle, the capacity to improve all three, but the conceptual illustrations one can find today on the internet when searching for "autonomous vehicles" leave much to be desired... they generate more questions than answers in one's mind. They are confusing. Such as why does a picture show all this "connectivity and sensors" from each vehicle, but the traffic pattern on the freeway is identical to existing conditions? Where is the benefit? Capacity increase? Or why would one think that it would be a good idea to show vehicles criss-crossing past each other at right angles in an uncontrolled intersection, narrowly missing bumpers, as if that is a safe idea or design? Logically, it's not. A roundabout would be a much better idea, lower speeds, and significantly reduced conflict points (goes from 9 potential conflicts down to just 1). In fact, it doesn't make any sense to introduce such a fallible and dangerous situation where serious injury can take place if technology fails in any way. Also, what about bikes and pedestrians in such a situation? Its as if there were no serious thought put into these concepts when it comes to having Complete Streets.
UBER Autonomous car hits pedestrian. news makes it look like autonomous is not safe
what components are in an autonomous car ?
Stopping Sight Distance = PERCEPTION TIME + REACTION TIME + BRAKING TIME
Autonomous vehicles theoretically change this equation to: SuperFast PERCEPTION TIME + SuperFast REACTION TIME + BRAKING TIME where the braking time remains the same because it is a function of tires, speed, friction, etc., but the Perception Time is a fraction of what humans need to make a decision that they need to brake...theoretically, and the Reaction Time is greatly shortened because no human foot has to move from the floor to get above the pedal to push it.
Any Autonomous Vehicle solution MUST also take into consideration the entire body of transportation modes, especially pedestrians and bikes. A pedestrian or cyclist will never be in the autonomous category, so these are mixed transportation use situations.
Good examples of extreme traffic situations can be found in China where density is consistently very high throughout urban cities. n Chongqing China there are residential and business skyscrapers that go on and on for miles and miles, averaging 30 stories tall.
THIS is a compelling reason to implement such an expensive change for the benefit of all, including drivers of vehicles. 90% of residents in Chongqing do NOT own or drive a car. As one watches the video of regular drivers on these massive 9-lane roadways, one can think of what benefit would come to the system if all vehicles were autonomous. In my view, safety would not only improve, but efficiency as well and capacity could be tripled as vehicles perfectly coordinate the merging, with tighter headways, and regulated speeds.
So What will an Autonomous Vehicle transportation system look like? What must it look like?
First of all, it must be safe for pedestrians. In the China video above, the pedestrians are completely separated from the vehicle traffic, because it is not safe or practical to ever have these meet in such high numbers. So there must be separation. There must be grade separation (or in the case of the China video above, a complete separation of vehicle traffic by tunnel if necessary). Grade separations are expensive, but to have a truly autonomous system and remove the human error factor that introduces accidents, often fatal accidents, a separation is needed. If a car is going 60 mph autonomously, and a child runs in front of it, the car no matter how automated, cannot stop in time, and fatality may occur, traffic will come to standstill, etc. We grade separate freeways, and now all roads with autonomous vehicles will need some method of separation in order to achieve the desired levels of safety, of capacity, of efficiency, even the environment and air quality. Fences. Ped and Bike bridges. Even signal systems tied in to the autonomous computer system, coordinated and optimized for safety of peds and bikes.
The future of traffic engineering will be to develop solutions that actually make sense, are safe and efficient, and which can take existing right-of way and turn it into a system where cars are separated from the pedestrians and bikes to improve safety, capacity, efficiency and air quality.
Traffic Engineering and analysis in California has been evolving with the advent of SB 743. Safety has always been the primary focus of true Traffic Engineering, creating safe travel conditions for all modes of travel. SB 743 in California has specific elements within this law that place more focus on traffic safety including:
source: New Section 15064.3(b)(3) (preliminary OPR guidance for SB 743)
Staff at PRISM Engineering have decades of experience in preparing traffic and transportation plans with emphasis on traffic safety, utilizing guidance found in AASHTO publications, Highway Design Manual, MUTCD publications, etc., which focus on time-tested methods of design and implementation that enhance and improve safety.
Grant Johnson, registered Traffic Engineer, shares insights and experiences from around the world.