UK trying out scenic roads to keep drivers awake

January 13, 2018

A British company has a colourful plan designed to help drivers keep their focus on the road. Highways England, a UK Government-owned company, is planning over £15 billion worth of purely visual improvements alongside the country’s highways over the next three years.

Translation: they’re adding scenic vistas along 4,400 miles of roads as part of an experiment to keep drivers attention.

Highways England’s chief engineer, Mike Wilson, argued that the “different environments for people to consider,” would serve the purpose of “stimulating the road user,” and help create a sense of “making progress on your journey.”

The beautification project is part of an overarching philosophy of road design, outlined in a report it published entitled “The Road to Good Design.” All total, there are ten principles that a road should uphold, according to Highways England.

Beyond the expected aspects of good road design (safety, utility, longevity, environmental sustainability, etc.), the principles include inclusivity, ensuring the road fits in a given context, restraint, collaboration, and innovation.

Among the report’s key takeaways is the notion that bureaucracy and design should be separated from one another, at least in terms of road-making: “Designing to a standard is not the same as achieving good design.”

Ultimately, Highways England intends to use the beautification project to tie various stretches of road into the communities through which they pass. Still, Wilson is adamant that the scenic views would be a means to help drivers stay awake.

“You might argue that they’re safer because of it,” he said.

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