TRAFFIC & SAFETY
Researchers in KTC’s Traffic & Safety group focus on mitigating crash frequency and severity. The group collaborates with federal, state, and local agencies, including the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Adopting a multidisciplinary approach, researchers investigate topics ranging from commercial vehicle safety and seatbelt usage rates to improving traffic signage and understanding how climate change and severe weather events impact critical infrastructure. Each year, Traffic & Safety compiles annual crash data reports for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and they have been a key player in collecting data and performing analysis for the FHWA’s Highway Safety Improvement Program. Researchers draw on fieldwork and advanced geospatial analysis to devise strategies that will reduce crash frequencies and severities and lead to the construction and operation of safer roads. Traffic & Safety researchers have been pioneers in applying Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to traffic safety issues, and have provided guidance to the FHWA on best practices for using GIS to advance highway safety. Leveraging its multidisciplinary expertise, group members investigate a wide range of topics, from commercial vehicle safety and seatbelt usage rates, to improving traffic signage and studying the effects of climate change and severe meteorological hazards on critical infrastructure. More recently, the section has been a national leader in the implementation of the Highway Safety Manual — a science-based approach to highway safety.
Featured Project: Safety Performance Function (SPF-R) Tool
Transportation agencies use safety performance functions (SPFs) to develop crash predictions. Several resources are available to facilitate SPF development, including the Highway Safety Manual and the FHWA’s Safety Toolbox. The latter now contains a free and customizable tool — SPF-R — which KTC developed in RStudio. SPF-R is more flexible and provides better analysis than similar tools, but the user interface can be challenging to navigate for those without a background in programming. To solve this problem, KTC is developing a graphical user interface (GUI) to interact with RStudio’s code so that users can interact with the program through controls such as dropdown lists and radio button controls. State transportation agencies in Kentucky, Iowa, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington state have expressed interest in the GUI as they are beginning to develop SPF for their roadways and intersections. The GUI will open up SPF development to agency staff without traditional programming knowledge.
Snow and Ice Removal Route Optimization in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spends $40-80 million per year on snow and ice removal and road treatment. KTC researchers used GIS-based tools to identify routing for trucks and show where more or fewer trucks were needed. While high traffic routes will always receive the highest priority, optimizing the routing system can improve efficiency, increase safety, and reduce the amount of time and funding needed to treat roadways during winter storms. The analysis was based on a typical winter storm of one inch of snowfall. KTC’s route tree concept structured each removal route around a central high priority road, allowing truck drivers to become familiar with the roads on their route. As a result, drivers will react better to a non-typical winter storm and they understand the safest and most effective way to treat the roads, treat all routes on schedule, and use fewer trucks in the process. This project was selected by the AASHTO Region 2 states as one of four High Value Research projects for that region, and was included in the Sweet 16 projects highlighted at the summer meeting of the AASHTO Research Advisory Committee and at the 2019 TRB Annual Meeting. Click here to read the full report.
Research In Progress
- Highway Safety Improvement Program-Evaluations and Technical Support (FY 2023-2024)
- Impact of Real-Time Weather Information on Traffic Safety in Kentucky
- Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) Technical Assistance
Recently Completed Projects
- Combined Behavioral/Engineering Approach to Preventing Highway Fatalities (collaboration with Planning)
- Enhancements to the Crash Data Analysis Tool (CDAT)
- Crash Modification Factor Recommendation List
- Vehicle on Shoulder and Crash — Correlation or Causation?
- Evaluation of Orange Pavement Striping for Use in Work Zones
- Evaluation of Alternative Rumble Strip Designs
- Evaluation of Guardrail Needs and Update of Guardrail Rating Program
- Evaluation of Liquid Deicing Materials for Winter Maintenance Applications
- Transportation System Preparedness and Resilience to Extreme Weather Events: Click here to Download the Full Report on the Vulnerability Assessment of the National Highway System for all Districts
- Coaxing Highway Information System Data from Mandli Pavement Scans
- Applicability of Zipper Merge Versus Early Merge within Kentucky Work Zones
- In-Service Evaluation of High Tension Cable Barrier Systems
Traffic & Safety Faculty & Staff
Senior Research Scientist
Research Engineer II
Senior Research Scientist
Teng (Alex) Wang