The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), the international association that represents traffic engineers, transportation planners and similar professionals who plan and design roads and neighborhoods, has defined traffic calming as the installation of measures designed "to reduce traffic speeds and/or cut-through volumes, in the interest of street safety, livability, and other public purposes."
Traffic calming is the installation of safety solutions such as radar speed signs or speed humps to slow or reduce traffic in order to enhance safety for pedestrians and motorists. Already used effectively in Europe for decades, traffic calming is becoming more and more popular in communities throughout North America. It is the most effective way to reduce speeding on residential streets, avoid traffic accidents and prevent fatalities. Traffic calming programs begin either with the vision of progressive municipalities, with the knowledge of traffic engineers or public works officials, or at the request of concerned residents.
The purpose of traffic calming is to make neighborhoods safer, more pleasant, and more livable. Reducing the speed and volume of traffic to acceptable levels helps to achieve these goals. Traffic calming reduces accidents, collisions, noise, vibration, pollution, and crime.
Over decades of use, traffic calming solutions have proven to reduce both the number and severity of pedestrian crashes. Traffic calming measures such as "Your Speed" radar signs and dynamic messaging radar speed signs alert drivers to the speed they are driving at while reminding them of the posted speed limit. They have been shown to exert positive changes in driver behavior even over an extended period of time. Physical solutions, such as speed tables or speed humps, compel drivers to slow down to speeds at which they are better able to react to unexpected situations such as a child darting across the street.
In the event that a crash does occur, lower speeds significantly lower the probability of a fatality or serious injury. Each 1 mph reduction in traffic speed reduces vehicle collisions by 5% and fatalities by more than 5%. A driver travelling at 40 mph who sees a pedestrian 100 feet ahead will be traveling 38 mph on impact. If a driver was instead driving at 25 mph, he would have enough time to stop before ever reaching the pedestrian. Slowing traffic saves lives. Traffic calming measures have been called "the only antidote for the malady of child pedestrian accidents." (Transportation Alternatives Magazine)
In recent years traffic calming has become increasingly popular in North America. Radar speed signs are a versatile solution used in a variety of situations and environments such as residential streets, private communities, industrial settings, and military bases. Rubber traffic calming solutions are often used in place of asphalt speed humps or speed cushions as a more visible, easier to transport, and often cost-effective alternative. They are an aesthetically pleasing way to slow vehicles while the premolded shape encourages driver acceptance.
To learn more about traffic calming, visit the Wikipedia Traffic Calming page or the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE)'s traffic calming page. You can also learn more about specific calming measures at the Federal Highway Administration's traffic calming section.