U. S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

DOT HS 808 705

April 1998





Detailed Findings

General Discussion

Specific Issues




List of Tables
1 Composition of Beltway Driver Groups
2 How Participants Use the Beltway
3 Perceived Causes of Beltway Crashes
4 Perceived Causes of Beltway Crashes - Commercial Drivers
5 Responses to Aggressiveness Screening Questions

List of Figures
1 Questionnaire Responses - General vs. Aggressive Drivers



Incident and Traffic Management Issues

This topic was discussed fully in Groups 2 and 4 as well as in one group of commercial drivers.

Moving Disabled Vehicles

Seven of the 11 people in Group 2 were not aware that the law requires cars involved in minor collisions to be moved off the roadway. All but one thought it was a good idea. Interestingly, it was the most aggressive driver in the group who said, "If it was not my fault, I would insist that the cars be left just as they were, so I could prove it to the police and insurance company." She did see the point, though, that it would be safer and reduce traffic congestion.

All members of Group 4 agreed that it is best to get cars out of the travel lanes after a crash if at all possible. Most were aware that this is the law. Group 4 was very negative, however, to the law making unoccupied cars on the shoulder subject to immediate towing. Everyone in the group was so set against this that the moderator had to play devil's advocate to get any kind of discussion going. They acknowledged that vehicles on the shoulder disrupt the flow of traffic but blame rubberneckers, not the unfortunate motorist whose car broke down. They think motorists should be given 24 hours to get the car off the Beltway before authorities can have it towed.

All of the North American Van Lines drivers knew that the law requires vehicles involved in crashes to be moved out of the travel lanes immediately if it is possible. Several said they had seen the signs to that effect. All think it is a good law. Although this topic was not covered specifically among the drivers at Skippy's trucking, some of those drivers said that one of the things they do not like about the Beltway is that a fender bender can shut down the whole west side of the Beltway. It is reasonable to assume that they would be in favor of this law.

Pedestrian Problems

Although several members of Group 2 had seen pedestrians along the Beltway at one time or another, only one had ever seen a situation that he considered dangerous. In that case, a pedestrian ran from the median to the shoulder. However, all agreed that the problem of pedestrians does not compare in magnitude to the other safety hazards they had listed.

Only one Group 4 participant ever saw a situation where there were pedestrians on the Beltway. In this case, there were two people walking next to the median, close to the fast lane. The man who saw it thought it was very dangerous and could not imagine what the people were doing there. None of the North American drivers have ever encountered a dangerous pedestrian situation on the Beltway.

Motorist Assistance

Three members of Group 2 were aware of the motorist assistance patrols on the Beltway. One had a satisfactory experience with them. He said he once ran out of gas and had barely coasted to the shoulder when the assistance vehicle pulled up behind him. The rest could not recall ever seeing motorist assistance patrols and concluded that if they had never seen one, there could not be enough of them.

Most of the people in Group 4 had some awareness that there are motorist assistance patrols on the Beltway. A few said they see them often in Virginia. They would be very pleased with the service if help arrived within a half an hour. They would not be upset if it took an hour.

One of the moving van drivers spontaneously mentioned the motorist assistance patrols earlier in the discussion. He said he sees them often on the Virginia side of the Beltway. One of the drivers said that Maryland has them too but he does not think they have as many.

Reporting Non-Emergency Incidents

Five members of Group 2 have car phones. None knew that crashes or dangerous situations could be reported to the authorities by dialing #77. One, in fact, called 911 when she had a minor collision. When the group was asked if they had ever seen the call #77 signs on the side of the road, a couple said, "Oh yeah, I just did not think about them."

Of the seven people in Group 4 who had cell phones, about three knew how to use them to notify law enforcement of crashes or bad drivers. One woman had trouble thinking of what to dial although she says she sees it on a roadside sign every day. One cell phone user thought 611 should be called. None in the group have ever dialed #77 to notify law enforcement.

Before this topic was ever mentioned by the moderator, the North American Van Lines terminal manager noted that the Virginia State Police do a great job of responding to cellular phone reports on dangerous drivers. One rush hour, he personally dialed #77 to report a driver who cut him off. The Virginia State Police pulled the guy over before he was three miles down the road.

Advanced Traffic Management Systems

When the potential high-tech traffic management solutions were explained to Group 2, they seemed passive about it. The only part of the system they have noticed so far is the congestion advisories on the overhead variable message signs. However, one panelist noted that there is always congestion so the sign is always the same. She said that the sign occasionally says to tune in Traffic Advisory Radio but she always has trouble tuning it in. She is afraid she might have a crash while trying to find it on her radio dial. None in the group noticed any reduction in congestion over the past couple of years, except the relief they experience when each construction project is completed.