Deceleration Lengths for Exit Terminals Academic Article uri icon


  • General freeway design practice assumes deceleration for a vehicle exiting the freeway occurs between the point when the vehicle clears the through-traffic lane and the point of limiting design speed for the ramp proper. The length provided between these points should be at least as great as the distance needed to accomplish the appropriate deceleration, which is governed by the speed of traffic on the through lane and the speed to be attained on the ramp. The deceleration length values used in design are based on assumed running speed for the limited-access highway and the ramp, along with deceleration rates based on 1930s studies. The need to update the speed assumption for the highway and the ramp curve is clear, although determining appropriate deceleration rates is not as simple. Previous research has demonstrated that drivers select speeds at or above the design speed on horizontal curves, rather than the much lower average running speed that previously had been assumed for several design elements, including exit ramps. Although the assumption that drivers choose speeds less than the design speed in a free-flow situation is certainly questionable, there is some evidence that drivers do decelerate in the travel lane before moving into the deceleration lane. Updates for the current assumptions were identified on the basis of research, including studies on speed behavior on highways and detailed decelerating behavior for 27 exit maneuvers at two ramps. The paper includes suggested deceleration lengths. 2012 American Society of Civil Engineers.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Fitzpatrick, K., Chrysler, S. T., & Brewer, M.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Fitzpatrick, Kay||Chrysler, Susan T||Brewer, Marcus

publication date

  • June 2012