Injury Outcome in Crashes with Guardrail End Terminals

The goal of this study is to evaluate the crash performance of guardrail end terminals in real-world crashes. Guardrail end terminals are installed at the ends of guardrail systems to prevent the rail from spearing through the car in an end-on collision. Recently, there has been a great deal of controversy as to the safety of certain widely used end terminal designs, partly because there is surprisingly little real-world crash data for end terminals. Most existing studies of end terminal crashes used data from prior to the mid-1990s. Since then, there have been large improvements to vehicle crashworthiness and seat belt usage rates, as well as new roadside safety hardware compliant with National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 350, “Recommended Procedures for the Safety Performance Evaluation of Highway Features.” Additionally, most existing studies of injury in end terminal crashes do not account for factors such as the occurrence of rollover. This analysis uses more recent crash data that represent post-1990s vehicle fleet changes and account for a number of factors that may affect driver injury outcome and rollover occurrence. Passenger vehicle crashes coded as involving guardrail end terminals were identified in the set of police-reported crashes in Michigan in 2011 and 2012. End terminal performance was expected to be a function of end terminal system design. State crash databases generally do not identify specific end terminal systems. In this study, the coded crash location was used to obtain photographs of the crash site prior to the crash from Google Street View. These site photographs were manually inspected to identify the particular end terminal system involved in the crash. Multiple logistic regression was used to test for significant differences in the odds of driver injury and rollover between different terminal types while accounting for other factors. A total of 1,001 end terminal crashes from the 2011–2012 Michigan State crash data were manually inspected to identify the terminal that had been struck. Four hundred fifty-one crashes were found to be suitable for analysis. Serious to fatal driver injury occurred in 3.8% of end terminal crashes, moderate to fatal driver injury occurred in 11.8%, and 72.3% involved property damage only. No significant difference in moderate to fatal driver injury odds was observed between NCHRP 350 compliant end terminals and noncompliant terminals. Car drivers showed odds of moderate to fatal injury 3.6 times greater than LTV drivers in end terminal crashes. Rollover occurrence was not significantly associated with end terminal type. Car drivers have greater potential for injury in end terminal crashes than light truck/van/sport utility vehicle drivers. End terminal designs compliant with NCHRP 350 did not appear to carry different odds of moderate driver injury than noncompliant end terminals. The findings account for driver seat belt use, rollover occurrence, terminal orientation (leading/trailing), control loss, and the number of impact events. Rollover and nonuse of seat belts carried much larger increases in injury potential than end terminal type. Rollover did not appear to be associated with NCHRP 350 compliance.


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  • Accession Number: 01580009
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 6 2015 3:01PM