Regulations banning motorists from switching lanes while driving in the Hsuehshan Tunnel (雪山隧道) are to remain unchanged, the National Freeway Bureau said yesterday.
The bureau made the announcement after evaluating a proposal that drivers traveling north be permitted to switch lanes inside the nation’s longest tunnel to accelerate traffic flow.
A consulting firm was given the task of evaluating the suggestion Bureau Deputy Director-General Wu Mu-fu (吳木富) said.
The results showed that allowing drivers to switch lanes would only increase the tunnel’s capacity to accommodate vehicles by about 4 percent to 6 percent, he said.
However, the move would contribute to a spike in collisions, the results showed.
Many experts expressed doubt that Taiwanese drivers would adhere to the rule change, Wu said, adding that it would enable a small increase in traffic flow but expose drivers to much greater risk.
The bureau also analyzed data gathered both inside and on the lead up to the Hsuehshan Tunnel between 2014 and last year, Wu said.
Incidents happened outside the tunnel 2.2 times more often than inside on the northbound lanes, while overall incidents recorded outside the tunnel were 1.2 times more than those recorded inside the tunnel, the data showed.
This showed that stricter enforcement of traffic safety regulations inside the tunnel is effective at enhancing the safety of drivers, Wu said.
The tunnel does not have an emergency stopping lane, so the bureau is forced to shut down both lanes inside the tunnel when incidents happen because drivers switch lanes, Wu said.
“The tunnel is 12.9km long. It is not easy to carry out rescue operations when accidents occur in the tunnel,” he said.
The bureau has already adopted a series of measures to raise the tunnel’s capacity, including raising the minimum driving speed from 60kph to 70kph, he said.
Starting on Thursday next week, the bureau is to begin installing equipment inside the tunnel to automatically detect vehicles traveling below the minimum speed or above the maximum speed.
They are also able to recognize other violations, including drivers switching lanes or engaging in other dangerous behavior.
Asked if the bureau would consider enforcing differential tolls for peak and off-peak hours, Wu said that it tried to implement the policy in 2015, with drivers paying half the regular tolls to drive in off-peak hours and twice the normal fee for driving in peak hours.
However, the policy only motivated 3 percent of peak hour drivers to drive in off-peak hours, he said.
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