Researchers say their study findings indicate a need for considering safety, not just...

Researchers say their study findings indicate a need for considering safety, not just efficiency, in GPS route-finding.

A new study from Texas A&M researchers finds that taking a route with an 8% reduction in travel time could increase the risk of being in a crash by 23%, reports Texas A&M Today.

The researchers compared routes between five metropolitan areas and found navigation systems often guide drivers to take paths that carry a greater risk of crashes. Specifically, the team evaluated both the safest and shortest routes between five metropolitan areas in Texas — Dallas-Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, Houston, and Bryan-College Station — including more than 29,000 road segments.

Ultimately, they concluded that shortcuts might be long on saving time, but short on ensuring motorists’ safety.

While a GPS system is designed to offer the most efficient route, it doesn't always take all key factors that can lead to a collision into consideration. For example, GPS tools don't necessarily factor in poor geometric designs, drainage problems, lack of lighting, and a higher risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions.

In the case of Texas A&M, the researchers gathered and combined road and traffic characteristics, including geometry design, number of lanes, lane width, lighting and average daily traffic, weather conditions and historical crash data to analyze and develop statistical models for predicting the risk of being involved in crashes.

The findings revealed inconsistencies in the shortest and safest routes. In clear weather, taking the shortest route instead of the safest between Dallas-Fort Worth and Bryan-College Station will reduce the travel time by 8% — yet the probability of a crash increases to 20%. The analysis suggests that taking the longest route between Austin and Houston with an 11% increase in travel time results in a 1% decrease in the daily probability of crashes.

The researchers note that navigation based on safety, rather than travel time, can result in preventing crashes and promoting overall safety on the road network and eventually save lives. In fact, the team has proposed a system architecture for safe route-finding and highlighted the requirements for and barriers in incorporating safety in future navigation apps.

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