Improved method for roadside barrier length of need modeling using real-world trajectories
Journal article, 2015

The 2011 AASHTO Roadside Design Guide (RDG) contains perhaps the most widely used procedure for choosing an appropriate length of need (LON) for roadside barriers. However, this procedure has several limitations. The procedure uses a highly simplified model of vehicle departure, and the procedure does not allow designers to specify an explicit level of protection. A new procedure for choosing LON that addresses these limitations is presented in this paper. This new procedure is based on recent, real-world road departure trajectories and uses this departure data in a more realistic way. The new procedure also allows LON to be specified for a precisely known level of protection - a level which can be based on number of crashes, injury outcomes or even estimated crash cost - while still remaining straightforward and quick to use like the 2011 RDG procedure. In this analysis, the improved procedure was used to explore the effects of the RDG procedure's assumptions. LON recommendations given by the 2011 RDG procedure were compared with recommendations given by this improved procedure. For 55 mph roads, the 2011 RDG procedure appears to lead to a LON sufficient to intercept between 80% and 90% of right-side departures that would otherwise strike a hazard located 10 m from the roadway. For hazards closer than 10 m, the 2011 RDG procedure intercepts progressively higher percentages of real-world departures. This suggests the protection level provided by the 2011 RDG procedure varies with the hazard offset, becoming more conservative as the hazard moves closer to the roadway. The improved procedure, by comparison, gives a consistent protection level regardless of hazard location.

Roadside barrier

Road departure crashes



Roadside design





Environmental & Occupational Health

Length of need


N. S. Johnson

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Robert Thomson

Chalmers, Applied Mechanics, Vehicle Safety

H. C. Gabler

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Accident Analysis and Prevention

0001-4575 (ISSN)

Vol. 80 162-171

Subject Categories

Mechanical Engineering

Vehicle Engineering

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Areas of Advance






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