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Driver Safety: Toll Roads Safe or Dangerous?

Toll Road Safety
How did our highway system come about? How safe are the Toll Roads?

Do toll plazas create danger on the highways? Do they make toll roads unsafe? Does excessive speed cause more crashes?

These are some of the many questions being asked about toll roads. It was in 1956 that President Eisenhower enacted the Federal-Aid Highway Act which set the design standards for the Interstate Highway System and allowed tolls to be charged on some of the roadways. These highways did not get completed until 1991. There are now almost 50,000 miles of roads available to us.

Among all these miles, there are about 5,000 miles of toll roads. Since we have 50 states and the District of Columbia, if we divided 51 evenly, it would come out to less than 98 miles per state. However, only 32 of the states actually have toll roads, some with as little as 1 mile to the state of Florida which has about 700 miles of toll roads. The fees that are charged can vary from state to state, from as little as 2 cents per mile to as much as 18 cents per mile. Some of the states with low miles only have bridges or tunnels that charge tolls.

Texas has recently launched a Toll Road safety campaign. Their safety tips for drivers can apply to any toll road:

  • Slow down in cash lanes and on exit ramps.

  • Never back up to change lanes.

  • Do not get out of your car at the toll plaza.

  • If you are on the wrong lane for paying, just keep driving through and you will get a bill in the mail for the toll fee.

  • Watch for stopped vehicles in cash lanes.

  • If possible and you have a payment transponder, use the express lanes.

  • If paying by cash, be sure your lane has the green arrow or light.

  • Avoid distractions, such as cell phone, talking or texting, and anything that takes your eyes off the road.

  • Always buckle up.

Today many of the toll plazas have special lanes for the state issued transponders. Since you do not have to stop to pay the toll, it makes the highway safer. You must still use caution for the special assigned lanes, as well as prepare for a reduction in speed.

Toll roads have a better safety record than secondary roads and non toll highways. This happens because they have better maintenance records, such as covering potholes, fixing barriers, constant road monitoring. The one factor that toll road operators cannot control is the driver. The driver is responsible for the speed that the vehicle travels as well as any distractions that occur and risks taken, by exceeding the speed limits.

The Florida Turnpike has instituted several safety initiatives to ensure an excellent safety record. They include:

  • additional patrols always available and during specified holidays

  • restaurants at the service areas offer free coffee

  • an incident management in place

  • a streamlined policy on handling emergencies.

Their goal is to have the roadway clear within 90 minutes of a crash. Public outreach and education is on going at the service plazas to encourage safety, including child car seat checks and reminders to “Buckle Up”.

Many of the older toll roads are upgrading the toll collection plazas by using overhead connections to the transponders making it is unnecessary to slow down when approaching a toll booth, but imperative to watch the signage on the roadway to ensure you are in the correct lanes. The newer roadways, because of computer simulations, have fewer curves for better visibility.

The roads are constructed for safer travel, but now it is up to the drivers to be sure that they are not tired or distracted, their vehicles are well maintained, and keep in mind - “Safety First”.

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