Crash Causal Factors and Countermeasures for High-Risk Locations on Multilane Primary Highways in Virginia

Report No: 09-R15

Published in 2009

About the report:

In 2004, a total of 95,020 vehicle crashes occurred on highways under the jurisdiction of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Of these, 39,847 crashes occurred on primary highways, and 345 of these were fatal crashes. VDOT's traffic engineers continue to place increasing emphasis on identifying causal factors for crashes to enhance the selection of appropriate and effective countermeasures. The purpose of this study was to identify causal factors and appropriate countermeasures for crashes occurring at high-risk locations on multilane primary highways from 2001 through 2006. These high-risk locations were identified by Fontaine and Reed (2006) in a VDOT safety corridor study. A total of 365 sites, 1 to 2 mi in length, were used in the study. The statewide sites were located on rural and urban highways with divided, undivided, and traversable medians, with about 40 sites per VDOT district. Crash data were extracted from police crash reports, and geometric data were collected through site visits. Operational data were collected using VDOT's resources. The analysis involved more than 34,000 crashes and was conducted using fault tree analysis and generalized linear modeling. The fault tree analysis was used to determine the critical fault path based on the probability of an event occurring. Individual fault trees were constructed for each collision type and for each highway classification. The generalized linear models were developed for different highway classifications: urban divided, urban undivided, urban traversable (central lanes that can be used for left turns in both directions), and rural divided highways. Models were developed for rear-end crashes and total crashes, and separate models were developed for injury crashes, property damage only (PDO) crashes, and injury + PDO crashes. Appropriate potential countermeasures were then identified based on the significant causal factors identified in the models. The results indicated that rear-end crashes were the predominant type of crash, representing 56% of all PDO crashes on urban divided highways and 37% of all PDO crashes on rural divided highways. Implementing the recommended countermeasures for total, rear-end, and angle crashes for different assumed levels of rehabilitation is expected to result in a crash reduction of up to about 40% depending on the site and level of rehabilitation undertaken. A benefit/cost analysis showed that the benefit/cost ratios were higher than 1 for all levels of countermeasure implementation.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Chase R. Buchanan, Young-Jun Kweon, Ph.D., P.E., Nicholas J. Garber, Ph.D.

Last updated: November 23, 2023

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