Safety Impacts of Pavement Edge Drop-offs, 2006

(2006) Safety Impacts of Pavement Edge Drop-offs, 2006. Iowa State University


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A vehicle may leave its travel lane for a number of reasons, such as driver error, poor surface conditions, or avoidance of a collision with another vehicle in the travel lane. When a vehicle leaves the travel lane, pavement edge drop-off poses a potential safety hazard because significant vertical differences between surfaces can affect vehicle stability and reduce a driver’s ability to handle the vehicle. Numerous controlled studies have tested driver response to encountering drop-offs under various conditions, including different speeds, vehicle types, drop-off height and shape, and tire scrubbing versus non-scrubbing conditions. The studies evaluated the drivers’ ability to return to and recover within their own travel lane after leaving the roadway and encountering a drop-off. Many of these studies, however, have used professional drivers as test subjects, so results may not always apply to the population of average drivers. Furthermore, test subjects are always briefed on what generally is to be expected and how to respond; thus, the sense of surprise that a truly naïve driver may experience upon realizing that one or two of his or her tires have just dropped off the edge of the pavement, is very likely diminished. Additionally, the studies were carried out under controlled conditions. The actual impact of pavement edge drop-off on drivers’ ability to recover safely once they leave the roadway, however, is not well understood under actual driving conditions. Additionally, little information is available that quantifies the number or severity of crashes that occur where pavement edge drop-off may have been a contributing factor. Without sufficient information about the frequency of edge drop-off-related crashes, agencies are not fully able to measure the economic benefits of investment decisions, evaluate the effectiveness of different treatments to mitigate edge drop-off, or focus maintenance resources. To address these issues, this report details research to quantify the contribution of pavement edge drop-off to crash frequency and severity. Additionally, the study evaluated federal and state guidance in sampling and addressing pavement edge drop-off and quantified the extent of pavement edge drop-off in two states. This study focused on rural two-lane paved roadways with unpaved shoulders, since they are often high speed facilities (55+ mph), have varying levels of maintenance, and are likely to be characterized by adverse roadway conditions such as narrow lanes or no shoulders.

Item Type: Departmental Report
Keywords: Transportation, Research, Roads, Edge Drop-Off
Subjects: Transportation > Research
Transportation > Roads and highways
Transportation > Design and Construction
ID Code: 5310
Deposited By: Margaret Barr
Deposited On: 28 Aug 2007
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2007