Identifying effective geometric and traffic factors to predict crashes at horizontal curve sections



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Kansas State University


Driver workload increases on horizontal curves due to more complicated navigation compared to navigation on straight roadway sections. Although only a small portion of roadways are horizontal curve sections, approximately 25% of all fatal highway crashes occur at horizontal curve sections. According to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database, fatalities associated with horizontal curves were more than 25% during last years from 2008 to 2014, reinforcing that investigation of horizontal curve crashes and corresponding safety improvements are crucial study topics within the field of transportation safety. Improved safety of horizontal curve sections of rural transportation networks can contribute to reduced crash severities and frequencies. Statistical methods can be utilized to develop crash prediction models in order to estimate crashes at horizontal curves and identify contributing factors to crash occurrences, thereby correlating to the primary objectives of this research project. Primary data analysis for 221 randomly selected horizontal curves on undivided two-lane two-way highways with Poisson regression method revealed that annual average daily traffic (AADT), heavy vehicle percentage, degree of curvature, and difference between posted and advisory speeds affect crash occurrence at horizontal curves. The data, however, were relatively overdispersed, so the negative binomial (NB) regression method was utilized. Results indicated that AADT, heavy vehicle percentage, degree of curvature, and long tangent length significantly affect crash occurrence at horizontal curve sections. A new dataset consisted of geometric and traffic data of 5,334 horizontal curves on the entire state transportation network including undivided and divided highways provided by Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) Traffic Safety Section as well as crash data from the Kansas Crash and Analysis Reporting System (KCARS) database were used to analyze the single vehicle (SV) crashes. An R software package was used to write a code and combine required information from aforementioned databases and create the dataset for 5,334 horizontal curves on the entire state transportation network. Eighty percent of crashes including 4,267 horizontal curves were randomly selected for data analysis and remaining 20% horizontal curves (1,067 curves) were used for data validation. Since the results of the Poisson regression model showed overdispersion of crash data and many horizontal curves had zero crashes during the study period from 2010 to 2014, NB, zero-inflated Poisson (ZIP), and zero-inflated negative binomial (ZINB) methods were used for data analysis. Total number of crashes and severe crashes were analyzed with the selected methods. Results of data analysis revealed that AADT, heavy vehicle percentage, curve length, degree of curvature, posted speed, difference between posted and advisory speed, and international roughness index influenced single vehicle crashes at 4,267 randomly selected horizontal curves for data analysis. Also, AADT, degree of curvature, heavy vehicle percentage, posted speed, being a divided roadway, difference between posted and advisory speeds, and shoulder width significantly influenced severe crash occurrence at selected horizontal curves. The goodness-of-fit criteria showed that the ZINB model more accurately predicted crash numbers for all crash groups at the selected horizontal curve sections. A total of 1,067 horizontal curves were used for data validation, and the observed and predicted crashes were compared for all crash groups and data analysis methods. Results of data validation showed that ZINB models for total crashes and severe crashes more accurately predicted crashes at horizontal curves. This study also investigated the effect of speed limit change on horizontal curve crashes on K-5 highway in Leavenworth County, Kansas. A statistical t-test proved that crash data from years 2006 to 2012 showed only significant reduction in equivalent property damage only (EPDO) crash rate for adverse weather condition at 5% significance level due to speed limit reduction in June 2009. However, the changes in vehicles speeds after speed limit change and other information such as changes in surface pavement condition were not available. According to the results of data analysis for 221 selected horizontal curves on undivided two-lane highways, tangent section length significantly influenced total number of crashes. Therefore, providing more information about upcoming changes in horizontal alignment of the roadway via doubling up warning sings, using bigger sings, using materials with higher retroreflectivity, or flashing beacons were recommended for horizontal curves with long tangent section lengths and high number of crashes. Also, presence of rumble strips and wider shoulders significantly and negatively influenced severe SV crashes at horizontal curve sections; therefore, implementing rumble strips and widening shoulders for horizontal curves with high number of severe SV crashes were recommended.



Roadways, Horizontal curves, Prediction model, Crashes, Effective parameters, Statistical methods

Graduation Month



Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Civil Engineering

Major Professor

Sunanda Dissanayake; Malgorzata J. Rys