For decades, concrete barriers have proven successful in helping vehicles stay on the roadway during a crash. Sometimes motorcyclists also crash into these barriers and are often injured or killed if thrown over the top. Researchers from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s (TTI’s) Roadside Safety and Physical Security Division designed and tested a semi-rigid containment system to help mitigate this phenomenon as part of a project sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). Made from a chain-link fence attached to the barriers, this net is intended to catch the motorcyclist and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities when crashes occur.
“What is really unique about this project is that currently no national standard exists for motorcyclists with regard to bridge rails or other crash-tested devices,” says TxDOT Bridge Standards Engineer Taya Retterer, who worked with the TTI team. “So this Texas motorcycle barrier system standard will be the first of its kind in the state.”
In the design phase, TTI researchers knew they were facing a three-part challenge. They had to:
- create a semi-flexible system that would easily attach to existing or new rigid concrete barriers,
- find a post type and placement that could only protrude a certain amount on the other side of the barrier, and
- minimize the interaction of the errant motorcyclist with the barrier fence posts upon impact.
“With the crash simulation software, we are able to conduct many virtual crash tests to optimize the design for the best placement and configuration of the posts, as well as to locate the critical point of impact for the crash-test dummy used in conducting the live crash test,” explains TTI Research Scientist Chiara Silvestri Dobrovolny, the Institute’s lead researcher on the project.
Both simulated and live crash tests were successful in addressing all design and safety criteria. In fact, the simulation prediction was reproduced perfectly in the live test, and TxDOT now has a new Motorcycle Net Standard posted on its Bridge Standards web page for implementation by TxDOT districts.
“TxDOT chose to invest in this system because we are always interested in making our safe system even safer for all types of drivers in the traveling public,” says Retterer.
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