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Chapter 3

Designing the Highway

This chapter describes how the road network can be made to be safer through the awareness of safety principles
during the design stages.
3.1. Safe Design Principles
The first aim of safe road design is to ensure that road users remain safely on the road. This depends on the following
a. a sound road surface
b. an adequate width or cross-section;
c. horizontal and vertical alignment;
d. good visibility/sight distance;
e. delineation and signing;
f. provision for pedestrians, pedal cyclists and people with disabilities;
g. management of traffic conflicts at intersections; and,
h. speed management.
However, drivers and riders will sometimes make mistakes and lose control and leave the road. At that stage it is
important to provide a forgiving roadside.
3.2. Road surface
An even, well drained and good textured road surface can maximize safety on the road and prevent traffic accidents
occurring. In addition, poor skid resistance can cause drivers to lose control or increase the distance that a vehicle will
require to stop in an emergency. The level of manhole lids for drainage pits or utilities can also be important for
maintaining vehicle control. These factors are particularly important in relation to motorcycle safety.
Areas where the road surface condition and good texture of the road surface is particularly important:
1. On the approach to traffic signals
2. At roundabouts
3. Around tight curves
4. On downhill slopes.
The shape of the road surface and good skid resistance are also important in ensuring that water drains from the road
surface. Areas with depressions or where the pavement is very flat can result in ponding or surface flow of water that can
cause a vehicle to skid or aquaplane. Surface shape and levels need to be checked during design and construction.
In rural areas, loose gravel on a paved major road can result from traffic movement at gravel intersecting roads. This
can be minimized by paving the adjacent area of the side road (6 to 10 meters from edge of through lane). Vehicles then
have a firm surface from which to accelerate when turning. The road edge can also cause problems for vehicle safety.

3.3. Road Alignment Considerations

The horizontal and vertical alignment and the cross section of a road should be designed so that a driver or rider can
travel safely at an appropriate operating speed and have adequate sight distance of the road ahead. If constraints require a

tighter alignment, then it is imperative that the driver or rider be provided with the necessary visual and physical features
to enable the driver to perceive the changed conditions accurately and to select an appropriate lower speed.
Some Physical Problems
1. Alignment changes suddenly and unexpectedly

Although this road has a centerline it does not give the motorist sufficient advance warning that the road will
change direction. Some chevron hazard signs may improve delineation in this situation or the curve should
commenced before the crest to ensure the curve is visible to drivers. This would improve safety and may avoid
the need to use additional signs.
2. A horizontal curve at the end of a steep downgrade
A centerline and edge line pavement markings would assist the motorists considerably. Strategically placed curve
markers and guideposts would also help.
3. Extreme topography results in small radius curves

The road alignment changes quickly due to the extreme topographical terrain resulting in a number of small radius
curves. At night, particularly with the headlight glare of an oncoming vehicle, it would be very difficult to
visualize the road alignment. A centerline and edge line pavement markings would assist the motorists
considerably. Strategically placed curve markers and guideposts would also help.
4. Trees Obstructing Sight Distance

Trees or vegetation can often hide the road alignment. During daytime, dangerous corner cutting will be
encouraged because the pavement markings are not adequate. If the vegetation cannot be trimmed, the alignment
would be improved by providing strategically placed chevron signs or guideposts. The centerline markings
should be barrier lines where visibility is poor.
5. Poor vertical alignment through an intersection.

Poor vertical alignment through an intersection can obscure the layout of an intersection. For example in Figure
15.5, it is not possible to see the intersecting cross road surface. This could cause vehicles to stop in the wrong
place, for instance in the path of cross traffic.
6. Lack of channelization

Lack of channelization leads to poor driver behaviour such as corner cutting or lane blocking. If vehicle
movement is unpredictable a collision is more likely to occur. Installing a centerline, edge-line marking and a stop
or holding line would improve the intersection considerably.
7. Horizontal Curve at the End of a Steep Downgrade

It is difficult to determine the nature of the horizontal curvature at the end of the steep grade due to poor sight
distance. The motorist may approach too quickly and lose control. Improved sight distance could be achieved by
cutting back vegetation by providing a sight bench. A centerline, guideposts and chevron road signs would also
improve awareness.
8. Poor Vertical Sag

The short vertical sag curve can hide a vehicle. Motorists may try to overtake thinking the road ahead is clear
without realizing that a vehicle is hidden from view in the sag. A good treatment would be to delineate the road
with no overtaking lane markings. Lane widening over the short crest would provide extra width for maneuvering
9. Closely spaced reverse curves

Closely spaced reverse curves without a length of straight alignment between the two curves are undesirable as
the standard rate of change of cross-fall (super-elevation) is always exceeded. This can lead to loss of vehicle
control when the road is wet. It is also very hard for the motorists to determine the road alignment in advance. It is
desirable to have the length of the tangent between reverse curves not less than 50 m. In no case shall the tangent
length be less than 30m. Centerline and lane markings should be provided as well as chevron signs.
10. Poor Combination of Horizontal and Vertical Alignment

The poor alignment is coupled with a structure at the lowest section of the vertical alignment. Notice the small
vertical curves provided at the approaches to the structure to keep the structure on a level position. Traffic coming
from both directions cannot pass this section of the road at the same time due to the acceleration needed by the
vehicle to negotiate the steep gradient in both directions. Provision of a Give Way sign on one approach and
information signs on both approaches of the bridge would help motorists to traverse this section of road. This
would provide the traffic management needed to control vehicles in the course of traversing this section of road. It
is a situation that should not be provided in a new road design.
11. Delineation of Curve Poor night-time visibility

The raised, colored, back to back curb, form of curve delineation is intended to discourage vehicles moving into
the opposing lane. While this may be effective during daylight hours, this median treatment would not be very
visible at night. Also, if a driver inadvertently struck the raised island this could cause the driver to lose control.
The best way to treat a substandard or unexpected curve is to provide barrier lines with reflectorized pavement
studs (RPS), edge lines and chevron hazard signs or guide posts. If a curve is experiencing a number of loss of
control crashes, then it may be appropriate to provide these devices.