Crash data in Kentucky show that the fatal crash rate on two-lane rural roads is substantially higher than on any other type of road. Improvements have been proposed at some locations on this type of road which involve either upgrading the existing two-lane road or adding lanes resulting in a four-lane road. As part of the public information process, highway officials have been asked to document the previous results of this type of construction. The objectives of this study were to: 1) identify sections of two-lane rural roadways where either the two-lane road had been realigned and reconstructed or additional lanes had been added and 2) conduct a before- and-after analysis to determine how these changes affected traffic crashes.
Of the 49 locations included in the study, 25 involved adding lanes and converting to a four-lane road while the two-lane road was upgraded (realignment with wider lanes and shoulders) at 24 locations. Before the construction, the average traffic volume was almost three times higher on the roads where additional lanes were added than where the two-lane road was upgraded. The average daily traffic increased dramatically after the construction was completed with a slightly higher increase for roads where lanes were added.
When all the locations are considered, there was a 51 percent reduction in the crash rate when the road was upgraded and a 56 percent reduction in the crash rate when lanes were added. The rate was reduced from 250 to 122 crashes/100 million vehicle miles (MVM) when the road was upgraded and from 258 to 114 crashes/100 MVM when lanes were added. When only the number of crashes is considered, the number of crashes per mile decreased by 39 percent when the road was upgraded and by 45 percent when lanes were added. The rate of injury or fatal crashes was reduced by 54 percent for upgrading the road and 55 percent by adding lanes while the number of crashes per mile decreased by 43 percent both when the road was upgraded and when lanes were added.
The overall conclusion of the study is that both upgrading two-lane rural roads and converting the road to four lanes are effective methods of reducing total crashes and injury or fatal crashes. The traffic volume would determine the appropriate alternative.
Digital Object Identifier
Agent, Kenneth R. and Pigman, Jerry G., "Safety Impacts of Rural Road Construction" (2001). Kentucky Transportation Center Research Report. 234.