Optimal guardrail runout lengths for freeways

Francisco Daniel B. Albuquerque, Dean L. Sicking, Cody S. Stolle, Ronald K. Faller, Karla A. Lechtenberg, Erik Emerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Guardrails have commonly been installed to prevent errant vehicles from impacting roadside hazards. However, guardrail impacts have contributed to numerous serious injuries and fatalities. Plus, guardrails are generally impacted more often because they are installed closer to the edge of travel way and are much longer than the shielded hazard itself. Thus, to reduce the frequency of guardrail crashes, an optimized length should be determined. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Roadside Design Guide (RDG) has suggested guardrail runout lengths which are dependent on posted speed limit and traffic volumes. Crash data analyses and simulation using the recently-updated Roadside Safety Analysis Program (RSAPv3) was conducted to evaluate the guardrail length-of-need (LON) associated with the lowest crash cost (i.e., cost associated with injuries and property damage) and maximum cost-effectiveness for freeways. Crash data involving Kansas guardrail systems, which were compliant with recommendations provided in the 2006 AASHTO RDG and occurring on freeways with divided medians, were collected and analyzed. The frequency, rate, and risk of shielded hazard crashes were extremely low. RSAPv3 analyses indicated that there was an economic and safety benefit to reducing the installed LON as well as utilizing different runout lengths for left- and right-side departures for divided roadways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-418
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Transportation Safety and Security
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • cost/benefit effectiveness analysis
  • crash data
  • highway
  • risk/probability analysis
  • traffic injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Safety Research


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