Crashing a vehicle is already a traumatizing and possibly fatal accident, but if the object that the vehicle collides into is a rigid street light pole that snaps off its base due to the impact, then chances of injury or death to those in the car and to pedestrians standing nearby are much higher. Not to mention the hassle of replacing the pole and damaged lights.
According to Dr. Mohammad Uddin from the University of South Australia, “traffic light collisions cost $18.5 million a year in fatalities, $53.7 million for injuries and up to $16 million annually to repair, install, and maintain traffic lights.”
Motivated to find a solution, Dr. Uddin and the university partnered with the Australian company Impact Absorbing Systems to design street light poles that absorb kinetic energy, thereby reducing the damage that a collision would have to the vehicle, pole itself, and the surrounding area.
The poles incorporate Impact Absorbing Systems’ energy-absorbing steel bollards which will sit inside a cavity within the bollards’ concrete foundation. The cavity is shaped like a cone, which means that at the bottom it has the same diameter as the bollard but widens at the top which leaves a gap between the bollard and the concrete. The gap is filled by a polyurethane foam cartridge that goes around the cylindrical bollard and allows it to stand up straight.
If the pole is hit by a car, the cartridge compresses as it absorbs the impact energy. This permits the bollard to tilt to one side without snapping, which means that there will be less of a sudden impact to the car and the driver, and it’ll be less likely to damage the bollard.
This life-saving technology is currently being scaled up for use on traffic light poles in Australia and is projected to be ready for use within a year’s time.
“We expect these new energy-absorbing traffic lights (EATL) will be the standard model going forward, not only for new installations but also to gradually replace existing lights,” Dr. Uddin adds.