Effect of clear zone widths on run-off-road crash outcomes
Current guidelines on clear zone selection and roadside hazard management adopt the US approach based on the likelihood of roadside encroachment by drivers. This approach is based on the available research conducted in the 1960s and 70s. Over time, questions have been raised regarding the robustness and applicability of this research in Australasia in 2010 and in the Safe System context.
This paper presents a review of the fundamental research relating to selection of clear zones. Results of extensive rural highway statistical data modelling suggest that a significant proportion of run-off-road to the left casualty crashes occurs in clear zones exceeding 13 m. They also show that the risk of run-off-road to the left casualty crashes was 21% lower where clear zones exceeded 8 m when compared with clear zones in the 4–8 m range.
The paper discusses a possible approach to selection of clear zones based on managing crash outcomes, rather than on the likelihood of roadside encroachment which is the basis for the current practice. It is expected that this approach would encourage selection of clear zones wider than 8 m when the combination of other road features suggests higher than average casualty crash risk.