Traffic Engineering & Its Scope- A Review

Traffic engineering is the modern branch of civil engineering, which primarily encompasses research, planning and geometric construction of roads, highways, railways, bridges, traffic lights and traffic signs. According to WHO, nearly 1.25 million people die every year due to fatal road accidents, and 20 million to 50 million persons are maimed. With the number of two wheelers and four wheelers increasing manifold every year, road accidents are expected to become the 7th major cause of death by 2030.

Also, there has been an alarming rise in railway accidents in the last 5 years. More than 80 percent of them are attributed to derailments, and human failures. Mishaps like bridges collapsing are also on the rise, which result in heavy casualties. It is, therefore, imperative in public interest for every government to pay special attention to traffic engineering.

Why is traffic planning essential?

Many people might thinking that disasters like road traffic crashes, and train collisions could be averted by installing more traffic signals at the right places, and by reducing speed limits. These measures, however, are not completely effective in reducing the instances of accidents. This is because of the fast-paced increase in the number of vehicles over the last few decades. Moreover, researches have revealed that excessive traffic regulations lead to a rise in traffic hazards. It must be noted here that slow speed does not necessarily associate with increased safety. People lose their cool amidst the honking vehicles and heat. These are the times when many people resort to jump signals, and flout the traffic rules.

These days, traffic engineers analyse speed data, accident statistics, traffic count and human psychology while laying out plans for an infrastructure. Safety is linked to smooth traffic operation, and any kind of disruption results in fatalities. In fact, traffic engineers are somewhat like medical professionals, who aim at doing away with all kinds of unwarranted impediments for traffic movement, thereby enhancing safety and smooth movement.

Traffic engineering promotes uniformity in traffic rules. It becomes easy for the traffic police to administer, and function while on duty. Commuters need not indulge in arguments with the traffic cops, since interpretation of rules is the same for everyone. Besides, traffic engineering lays guidelines for the public highway officials in administration, manufacture, installation and maintenance. Consequently, there is compatibility between commuters and administrators.

Importance of Traffic Engineering:

  • Traffic Control: Geometric design is an important aspect of traffic engineering, which is done on the basis of speed study, traffic volume study, and traffic flow study. Accordingly, pavement designs, road structures, and regulatory measures are determined. Automatic counters are installed to count the number of vehicles crossing a particular section of a road throughout the day. Spot speed study, and spot speed data also help the road planners in framing rules for traffic movement.
  • Smooth Movement: Researches have revealed that traffic engineering enhances smooth movement of traffic, irrespective of its volume. There has been a significant increase in the number of vehicles over the last few years, and yet, the instances of unnecessary traffic jams have reduced. On the contrary, traffic movement has become smooth, since most of the bottlenecks have been done away with. Hence, density of traffic does not affect speed much.
  • Introduction of Dynamic Elements: Instead of constructing additional infrastructure, dynamic elements are used in traffic management. Sensors are interconnected to guidance systems, which are used for monitoring traffic movement.
  • Smooth Movement of Traffic during the Rush Hours and Bad Weather: Rush hours pose severe challenges to the daily commuters. Also, bad weather jeopardizes traffic movement. Traffic engineers, however, have been assiduously working to do away with such impediments so as enhance speed, and public safety.


  • Huge Investment: Traffic engineering, however, demands huge investment, which inevitably drains the public exchequer. In developing countries like India, where a large population reels under poverty, it becomes imperative for the government to spend money on employment generation schemes, food subsidy, free education, and other development plans.

Besides, the government needs to maintain a stockpile of artillery, and firearms to safeguard the nation against external aggression. All these require huge funds, and it’s the tax payers who end up bearing the burden. Under such circumstances, mammoth schemes of traffic engineering tend to crush the middle class tax payers.

Traffic engineering demands huge upfront costs. Also, the process of training the city staff turns out to be expensive, and time consuming.

  • Failure of Signals: Although traffic engineering tends to sustain smooth flow of voluminous traffic, it fails to do so beyond a certain limit, consequently leading to logjams.

Also, there are instances when some signals fail, or stop functioning. This results in unnecessary commotion and chaos.

  • Problem for Emergency Vehicles: Emergency vehicles like ambulances, and fire brigades need to reach their destinations on time; however, they get held up in bee-lines of vehicles. Traffic engineers need to design plans that would facilitate unrestricted passage for such vehicles. There should be separate corridors along the roads, and highways so as to augment smooth transit for emergency vehicles. It would be a herculean task for the traffic cops to keep away the other vehicles from entering these corridors. This is because the other commuters would be tempted to use these lanes during the rush hours, and flout the norms.
  • Decline in the Number of Accidents: Traffic engineering has attained great milestones, notwithstanding certain defalcations. There has been a decline in the number of accident cases in the recent years. Traffic engineering has introduced countermeasures to reduce the number of hit and run cases in which, most of the victims are pedestrians. Also, the number of traffic crashes, and fatal deaths have considerably gone down.
  • Part of Smart City Projects: While our futuristic governments have great plans for setting up smart cities, traffic engineering would be instrumental in fomenting their grand schemes.