Risk factors associated with high potential for crashes on low-volume roads
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A significant portion of the roadway mileage in the U.S. is comprised of the low volume roads. As these roads experience very low crash frequencies, the identification of hazardous locations based on crash history alone is difficult. However, these low-volume roads may be associated with higher level of risks and consequently higher crash rates due to substandard geometry on these roads. Therefore, an approach to identify hazardous locations on low volume roads which accounts for geometric and roadside features as well as crash history seemed to be necessary. For this purpose, roadway data from Oregon's low volume roads and 10-years of crash data on the selected sample were collected and analyzed to identify the roadway geometric and roadside features that contribute to the crash occurrence. Length of the horizontal and vertical curves under 100 feet, degree of curvature over 30 degrees, vertical grade over 5 percent, lane width narrower than 11 feet, shoulder width of 0 feet, and driveway density of 5 driveways/mile were found as the most restrictive features contributing to higher crash rate. Based on these analyses a quantitative tool was developed for assessing the level of risk on low volume roads. The developed risk index, which is a function of roadway geometry, roadside features, traffic exposure, and crash history, is proactive in nature, as it does not rely heavily on crash occurrence in assessing crash risks. Application of the crash risk index on the three corridors of Oregon showed that, the use of risk index provides new information about the level of hazard along highway segments compared to using crash history alone. Economic feasibility of some potential low-cost safety countermeasures was analyzed to identify which countermeasures would ensure the maximum return on investments. Installation of the rumble strips, object markers, safety edge, centerline and edge-line markings were found to be most cost effective with benefit/cost ratio over 8. The same procedure can be followed by other states, with similar road and traffic conditions, to identify the contributing factors of crashes and identify the most-effective countermeasures to improve the safety of the road.