Are driving and overtaking on right curves more dangerous than on left curves?

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Sarbaz Othman
Robert Thomson
Gunnar Lannér

It is well known that crashes on horizontal curves are a cause for concern in all countries due to the frequency and severity of crashes at curves compared to road tangents. A recent study of crashes in western Sweden reported a higher rate of crashes in right curves than left curves. To further understand this result, this paper reports the results of novel analyses of the responses of vehicles and drivers during negotiating and overtaking maneuvers on curves for right hand traffic. The overall objectives of the study were to find road parameters for curves that affect vehicle dynamic responses, to analyze these responses during overtaking maneuvers on curves, and to link the results with driver behavior for different curve directions. The studied road features were speed, super-elevation, radius and friction including their interactions, while the analyzed vehicle dynamic factors were lateral acceleration and yaw angular velocity. A simulation program, PC-Crash, has been used to simulate road parameters and vehicle response interaction in curves. Overtaking maneuvers have been simulated for all road feature combinations in a total of 108 runs. Analysis of variances (ANOVA) was performed, using two sided randomized block design, to find differences in vehicle responses for the curve parameters. To study driver response, a field test using an instrumented vehicle and 32 participants was reviewed as it contained longitudinal speed and acceleration data for analysis. The simulation results showed that road features affect overtaking performance in right and left curves differently. Overtaking on right curves was sensitive to radius and the interaction of radius with road condition; while overtaking on left curves was more sensitive to super-elevation. Comparisons of lateral acceleration and yaw angular velocity during these maneuvers showed different vehicle response configurations depending on curve direction and maneuver path. The field test experiments also showed that drivers behave differently depending on the curve direction where both speed and acceleration were higher on right than left curves. The implication of this study is that curve direction should be taken into consideration to a greater extent when designing and redesigning curves. It appears that the driver and the vehicle are influenced by different infrastructure factors depending on the curve direction. In addition, the results suggest that the vehicle dynamics response alone cannot explain the higher crash risk in right curves. Further studies of the links between driver, vehicle, and highway characteristics are needed, such as naturalistic driving studies, to identify the key safety indicators for highway safety.

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