Does Separating Trucks from Other Traffic Improve Overall Safety?
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Decision makers have long speculated that building separate roads for trucks and passenger cars, or at least separating these into their own lanes, would accomplish two major objectives: (a) roadways would be made safer for passenger cars and (b) roadways designed specifically for a select class of vehicles rather than for all vehicles might represent overall savings in construction costs. This paper addresses the first objective. Recent studies on the evaluation of safety effects of truck traffic levels on general freeway facilities have not provided a clear understanding of how they affect the number of crashes. In some cases, studies have been contradictory. In addition, no studies have specifically compared passenger car-only with mixed-traffic freeway facilities. The research on which this paper is based aimed to assess whether more homogeneous flows of traffic by vehicle type are safer than the current mixed-flow scenario. An exploratory analysis of crash data was conducted on selected freeway sections of the New Jersey Turnpike for 2002. These sections operate as a dual-dual freeway facility: divided inner and outer lanes. At these locations, the inner lanes have the special characteristic of being for passenger cars only (homogeneous traffic). The selected sections, therefore, offer a very good opportunity to compare the crash experience between passenger car-only and mixed-traffic rural freeway facilities. The results of the study show that outer lanes experience more crashes, both when raw numbers are used and when exposure is included in the analysis. It was shown that truck-related crashes contribute significantly to the total number of crashes on the outer lanes. In fact, trucks are overinvolved in crashes given the exposure on these sections. Although the outcome of this study suggests that separating truck traffic from passenger cars for freeway facilities improves safety, further work is needed to understand the contributing factors leading to truck-related crashes in the outer lanes.
author list (cited authors)
Lord, D., Middleton, D., & Whitacre, J.