National Academies Press: OpenBook

A Guide for Reducing Head-On Crashes on Freeways (2008)

Chapter: Section II - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Section II - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2008. A Guide for Reducing Head-On Crashes on Freeways. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23088.
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SECTION II Introduction The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Strategic Highway Safety Plan identified 22 goals to pursue in order to reduce highway crash fatalities. Goal 15 of the Strategic Safety Plan is “keeping vehicles on the roadway,” Goal 16 is “minimizing the consequences of leaving the road,” and Goal 18 is “reducing head-on and across-median crashes.” These three goals are addressed by four emphasis areas: • Run-off-road (ROR) crashes • Head-on collisions • Head-on collisions on freeways • Crashes with trees in hazardous locations The common solution to these goals and emphasis areas is to keep the vehicle in the proper lane. While this may not eliminate crashes with other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and trains, it would eliminate many fatalities that result when a vehicle strays from its lane onto the roadside or into oncoming traffic. This emphasis area addresses head-on crashes associated with freeways and expressways that have full access control. A head-on crash typically occurs when a vehicle crosses the median and crashes with a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction (typically called a cross-median crash or median-crossover crash). A head-on crash can also occur when a vehicle inadvertently travels the wrong way in the opposing traffic lanes. In either event, such crashes are inherently severe. Head-on cross-median crashes may be the result of inadvertent actions by a driver and potentially in combination with other adverse circumstances such as weather conditions or motorist fatigue. One of the goals of the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan is to consider safety problems in a comprehensive manner, both in the range of objectives and in strategies developed. The various strategies described in these guides will cover various elements of the transportation system: the driver, the vehicle, the highway, emergency medical services, and the management system. An overall goal is to move away from independent activities of engineers, law enforcement officials, educators, judges, and other highway safety specialists to coordinated efforts. The implementation process outlined in the guides promotes the formation of working groups and alliances that represent the elements of the safety system. The working groups and alliances can draw upon their combined expertise to reach the bottom-line goal of targeted reduction of crashes and fatalities associated with a particular emphasis area. II-1

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TRB's National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 500, Vol. 20, Guidance for Implementation of the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan: A Guide for Reducing Head-On Crashes on Freeways, provides strategies that can be employed to reduce head-on crashes on freeways.

In 1998, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) approved its Strategic Highway Safety Plan, which was developed by the AASHTO Standing Committee for Highway Traffic Safety with the assistance of the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Transportation Research Board Committee on Transportation Safety Management. The plan includes strategies in 22 key emphasis areas that affect highway safety. The plan's goal is to reduce the annual number of highway deaths by 5,000 to 7,000. Each of the 22 emphasis areas includes strategies and an outline of what is needed to implement each strategy.

Over the next few years the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) will be developing a series of guides, several of which are already available, to assist state and local agencies in reducing injuries and fatalities in targeted areas. The guides correspond to the emphasis areas outlined in the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Each guide includes a brief introduction, a general description of the problem, the strategies/countermeasures to address the problem, and a model implementation process.

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